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March 15, 2006

Scientists restore sight in blind hamsters

Topics: Medicine

[Image is a photomicrograph showing a section of hamster brain treated with the synthetic nanofiber scaffold. The growth of new axons and nerves is shown in green.]060313_nano_hmed_5p.hmedium.jpeg

According to scientists from the United States and China, a solution of biological molecules injected into the area of nerve damage, helped repair the connection between the eye and the brain of the hamsters, and subsequently restored their sight.

Scientists have previously found that severed nerve cells do have the ability to regrow, but the problem has been to reconnect in order to make a continuous pathway back to the brain. Now researchers have developed a kind of biological scaffolding made out of protein like molecules that apparently results in a complete and functional pathway.

If this technology can be applied to humans, the microscopic material could one day help restore sensory and motor function to patients suffering from strokes and injuries of the brain or spinal cord. It could also help mend cuts made in the brain during surgery.

The substance that the scientists used contains nano-sized particles that self-assemble into a fibrous mesh. The mesh mimics the body's natural connective tissue when placed in contact with living cells. The mesh allows existing neurons whose axons have been severed by injury or stroke to reconnect. Axons are branchlike projections that link neurons to one other, allowing them to communicate, and when many axons are bundled together, they form a nerve.

Hat tip - Harry Owens

Posted by Richard at March 15, 2006 6:08 AM

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