Pushing neurons’ physiological limits provides researchers with new ways to repair nerve damage
Sometimes it is the extremes that point the way forward. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have induced nerve fibers – or axons – to grow at rates and lengths far exceeding what has been previously observed. To mimic extreme examples in nature and learn more about neuronal physiology, they have mechanically stretched axons at rates of eight millimeters per day, reaching lengths of up to ten centimeters without breaking. This new work has implications for spinal cord and nerve-damage therapy, since longer implantable axons are necessary for this type of repair.
In the present study, the team, led by Douglas H. Smith, MD, Professor of Neurosurgery and Director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair, placed neurons from rat dorsal root ganglia (clusters of nerves just outside the spinal cord) on nutrient- filled plastic plates. Axons sprouted from the neurons on each plate and connected with neurons on the other plate. The plates were then slowly pulled apart over a series of days, aided by a precise computer-controlled motor system. "By rapid and continuous stretching, we end up with huge bundles of axons that are visible to the eye," says Smith. The axons started at an invisible 100 microns and have been stretched to 10 centimeters in less than two weeks. Smith and colleagues report their findings in the cover story of the September 8, 2004 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
Karen Kreeger | EurekAlert!
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
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