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Nanotech Neural Surgery
Jamais Cascio, 15 Mar 06

Researchers at MIT and at the University of Hong Kong have developed a treatment for repairing severely damaged brain tissues, offering the possibility of restoring partial function to people injured by disease or trauma.

The treatment uses synthetic peptide molecules as scaffolding, allowing damaged neurons to grow new axons in order to connect to other nerve endings. The researchers' goal is a modest 20% restoration, but the process worked well enough to restore sight to hamsters that had been blinded by the intentional severing of their optical nerves.

The researchers injected the blind hamsters at the site of their injury with a solution containing synthetically made peptides - miniscule molecules measuring just five nanometres long. Once inside the hamster's brain, the peptides spontaneously arranged into a scaffold-like criss-cross of nanofibres, which bridged the gap between the severed nerves. The scientists discovered that brain tissue in the hamsters knitted together across the molecular scaffold, while also preventing scar tissue from forming. Importantly, the newly formed brain tissue enabled the brain nerves to re-grow, restoring vision in the injured hamsters.

The treatment works as well in older brains as it does in younger ones, and the synthetic peptides appear to be both immunologically inert and either absorbed into local proteins or flushed through the urinary system in a matter of weeks.

More details at MIT.

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Comments

"...hamsters that had been blinded by the intentional severing of their optical nerves."

This sentence made me cry. Why do we do this to animals? Hopefully models like SimVirus will improve to the extent no animal pain or suffering will be required. (see Tuesday's article: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004201.html)


Posted by: JN2 on 16 Mar 06

Animal experimentation can be cruel and can be very expensive. Software models, DNA chips and microlabs can substitute for some of these tests but, sadly, the alternatives aren't yet perfect. For some tests, there simply is no substitute for animal experimentation. In medicine, I'd want these new procedures tested in animals before they are tested on human beings.

On to the subject of this post, I'm thrilled to see this! Think of the back and limb injuries we could cure!

I hope the synthetic peptides are cheap to make.

Getting these peptides to the damaged sites in body also seems tough. Do we have to operate on a patient's skull to get the peptides to their severed optic nerves? Or is there some other clever way we could do it--microscopic polymer bags filled with peptides that travel up an artery to open up on site maybe?


Posted by: Pace Arko on 16 Mar 06

I can understand the sympathy shown by the person who disagrees with animal testing, however, I feel it is useful to point out that there is an alternative which would me much more effective. In the case of sight (for instance) why not offer the experimental proceedure to people who have suffered neurological damage? This could offer some people who would otherwise remain blind, the opportunity to a: possibly regain their sight and b: give some real (i.e based on a human subject) feedback to the scientists studying this area.
I would be horrified to lose my sight in an accident and would be pretty excited by the opportunity to regain my full abilities (or even a partial return to vision).

Obviously there is always the view that human life is somehow sanctified, but I don't hold with that view and feel that we are wasting an awful lot of time and resources on avenues which may prove to be somewhat futile.

Please don't take offence if you disagree with me, I'm stating a belief based on my experience of life, if I'm wrong, you have my email address and I would be more than happy to be educated more fully on the issue.

Regards, Shane


Posted by: shane sidlow on 20 Mar 06

This nanobiotechnology is already in clinical trials, so it could be closer to market than we think. WWW.PURAMATRIX.COM


Posted by: CaliMD on 23 Mar 06



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