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Researchers may have a way to heal spinal cord injuries

Researchers from Rice University may have discovered a way to heal injuries to the spinal cord, including severed spinal cords. New York residents with serious spinal injuries might find it interesting that the chemists came across a chemical process that unzips graphene nanoribbons after about 10 years of working with them.

Researchers have been using graphene nanoribbons to improve materials for batteries, natural gas storage containers and deicers on airplane wings. Their efforts to develop them for medical purposes have created Texas-PEG, which could help mend damaged spinal cords and even those that are detached.

A Rice University grad student customized graphene nanoribbons for medical applications. They are very soluble in polyethylene glycol, which is used in pharmaceutical products, surgeries and for other biological purposes. When the edges of biocompatible nanoribbons are functionalized with chains of PEG and then incorporated with PEG, an electrically active network forms to reconnect the detached ends of spinal cords.

This is because neurons grow on the conductive surface of graphene. Although Texas-PEG contains just 1 percent of nanoribbons, it is plenty to compose a conductive surface for a spinal cord to reconnect.

During rodent testing at South Korea's Konkuk University, Texas-PEG was successful at restoring the function of a detached spinal cord. Just 24 hours after the procedure, it allowed reliable motor and sensory neuronal signals to travel across the gap. It took about two weeks for motor control to almost fully recover. As their most promising advance so far, the researchers believe they are on the right track to heal injuries of spinal cords.

As a serious injury, damage to or the severance of the spinal cord could happen in a traffic accident or fall from a high place. When someone else's negligence is the cause of such an injury, the victim may wish to seek compensation for medical bills and other losses. The victim may want to meet with a personal injury attorney to learn how best to do so.

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