Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


1 small step for neurons, 1 giant leap for nerve cell repair

Scientists create nerve cell connections in vitro using artificial substances, a major advance towards nerve cell repair

The repair of damaged nerve cells is a major problem in medicine today.

A new study by researchers at the Montreal NeurologicaI Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) and McGill University, is a significant advance towards a solution for neuronal repair. The study featured on the cover of the October 7 issue of Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to show that nerve cells will grow and make meaningful, functional contacts, or synapses - the specialized junctions through which neurons signal to each other - with an artificial component, in this case, plastic beads coated with a substance that encourages adhesion, and attracts the nerve cells.

"Many therapies, most still in the conceptual stage, are aimed at restoring the connection between the nerve cell and the severed nerve fibres that innervate a target tissue, typically muscle," says Dr. David Colman, Director of The Neuro and principal investigator in the study. "Traditional approaches to therapies would require the re-growth of a severed nerve fibre a distance of up to one meter in order to potentially restore function. The approach we are using however bypasses the need to force nerve cells to artificially grow these long distances, and eliminates the demand for two neurons to make a synapse, both of which are considerable obstacles to neuronal repair in a damaged system."

"We are tackling this problem in an entirely new way, as part of the McGill Program in NeuroEngineering," says Dr. Anna Lisa Lucido, who conducted research for the study as part of her PhD research at The Neuro and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at UCSF. "This program, spearheaded by Dr. Colman, is a multi-disciplinary consortium that brings together the knowledge, expertise and perspectives of 40 scientists from diverse fields to focus on the challenge of neuronal repair in the central nervous system. The approach we have taken is to help healthy nerve cells form functional contacts with artificial substrates in order to create a paradigm that can be adapted to model systems in which neurons are damaged. That approach will be combined with strategies to encourage the outgrowth of damaged neuronal branches through which these connections, or synapses, are formed. It's a challenging endeavour, but the ability to trigger connections to form on command is a promising start. Our ultimate goal is to create a combined platform in which damaged cells could be encouraged to both re-grow and re-establish their functional connections."

The synapses generated in this study are virtually identical to their natural counterparts except the 'receiving' side of the synapse is an artificial plastic rather than another nerve cell or the target tissue itself. This study is the first, using these particular devices, to show that adhesion is a fundamental first step in triggering synaptic assembly.

"Even though components of synapses have been induced in similar earlier studies, their functionality was not proven. In order to assess function - that is transmission of a signal from the synapse, we stimulated the nerve cells with electricity, sending the signal, an action potential, to the synapse. By artificially stimulating nerve cells in the presence of dyes, we could see that transmission had taken place as the dyes were taken up by the synapses."

"We believe that within the next five years we will have a fully functional device that will be able to directly convey natural nerve cell signals from the nerve cell itself to an artificial matrix containing a mini-computer that will communicate wirelessly with target tissues," says Dr. Colman. These results not only provide a model to understand how neurons are formed which can be employed in subsequent studies but, provides hope for those affected and potentially holds promise for the use of artificial substrates in the repair of damaged nerves.

About the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital
Celebrating 75 years
The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) is a unique academic medical centre dedicated to neuroscience. The Neuro is a research and teaching institute of McGill University and forms the basis for the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. Founded in 1934 by the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro is recognized internationally for integrating research, compassionate patient care and advanced training, all key to advances in science and medicine. Neuro researchers are world leaders in cellular and molecular neuroscience, brain imaging, cognitive neuroscience and the study and treatment of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and neuromuscular disorders.

Anita Kar | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

3-D-printed structures shrink when heated

26.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

First results of NSTX-U research operations

26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>