Mind & Matter


Electrospun Silk Used to Heal Damaged Nerves

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Electrospun silk used for nervous system regeneration, Advanced Functional Materials journal. Photo: Advanced Functional Materials journal.


Despite many advances in regenerative medicine, the repair of central nerves remains a significant challenge. As early as a century ago, neuroscientist Santiago Ramón y Cajal attempted to restore a damaged optic nerve by suturing a sciatic nerve graft. However, very few regenerative nerve fibers gravitated to the implant.

In a recent article in Advanced Functional Materials, professor Christopher Egles and his team demonstrate successful experiments using electrospun silk fibers to support the growth of regenerative nerve cells and provide a suitable structure for new nerve tissue. In their tests, the scientists introduced growth factors onto the fibers over a period of several days, and found that the new nerve cells developed longer axons—required for sending electrical impulses to neighboring cells. This is the first time that electrospun silk has been used in such an application, which portends a positive future for damaged nerve resurrection.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.