3D scaffolds allow directional growth of neurons – potential for healing spinal cord injury
Like a plant weaving up a trellis, these mouse neurons have grown along a man-made support. Scaffolds like this could help people recovering from spinal cord injuries, which sever links between brain and body, restricting sensation or movement with limited scope for natural healing. Providing a physical bridge that mimics the body’s complex natural structures to guide regrowth could help, like a cast holds broken bones together during healing. The researchers produced the pictured scaffold with a process that uses targeted lasers to harden portions of a material before allowing the rest to wash away. The resulting mesh supported growth of two types of mouse neurons, and one structure was designed to encourage cells to penetrate through (pictured, neurons coloured to reflect depth of penetration). Making this work at full scale and in the human body is some way off, but this progress provides a structure for future development.
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