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Nerve growth through nanotechnology

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Nerve regrowth after injury can be triggered through numerous mechanisms. However, whether this impulse comes from within the neurons themselves or their surroundings, the neurons will elongate their axons by stretching it from the inside. You should picture the axon as a hand crawling on the table. Its cytoskeleton - literally the skeleton of the cell - grows and pushes the hand always further, until it reaches its target.

Pulling, not pushing
The scientists work on the possibility to “stretch” the axon from the outside. By using ferrous nanoparticles, scientists from the University of Pisa showed that they could induce growth with the help of an external magnetic field. In fact, such growth is ten times faster than spontaneous regeneration.

The results
This work helped revealing new aspects of this kind of forced regeneration. Although further studies are needed before we could consider a clinical application, such work could be an extremely powerful and innovative tool to promote recovery after injury. As authors Vincentiis and Raffa conclude, stretch-growth could hold the “potential for designing novel strategies for axonal regrowth.”

This study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience and was supported by Wings for Life.

Quelle: De Vincentiis S, Falconieri A, Mainardi M, Cappello V, Scribano V, Bizzarri R, Storti B, Dente L, Costa M, Raffa V. Extremely Low Forces Induce Extreme Axon Growth. The Journal of Neuroscience 40(26):4997-5007. June 24, 2020.

You can find out more on the spinal cord and the influence of its damage on the human body in our basic-information. Wings for Life Glossary gives an understanding of scientific terms.