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Nervous Dancers

Nanofibre scaffolds bearing molecules that promote spinal cord injury repair

12 January 2022

Nervous Dancers

Transported to the site of a spinal injury, here artificial chemicals aim to heal damaged cells. But, like new arrivals at a school disco, the molecules fail to make an impact until they’re encouraged to move – jiving about on a scaffold of nanofibres, they match the rhythms of natural molecules that dance around receptors in the cells’ surface, triggering growth and repair. Fine-tuning these bioactive chemicals makes them more mobile and 'sociable' – in this stretch of mouse spine (highlighted in green and blue) their frolicking signals limit the growth of scar tissue and encourage new blood vessels to develop. Eventually, neuron cells grow new branches or axons (red). In the future, coaxing molecules to move to different biological rhythms may help to encourage repair, and, hopefully, keep human bodies moving.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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