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Media opportunity: Dalhousie University researchers develop silk‑based material that could be used to regenerate nerve cells in people with central nervous system injuries, paralysis
Spider silks are renowned as lightweight materials with tremendous strength and the ability to absorb a great deal of energy before breaking, making them highly sought after for biomedical applications.
Their use dates back thousands of years to ancient Greek and Roman cultures, when bundles of spider silk were used for wound treatment. Yet, harvesting these silks from natural sources is difficult and does not provide sufficient quantities to meet demand or to allow control over the material's properties.
Researchers at Dalhousie University, who have been working on making and customizing spider silks for the last 12 years, have now engineered a new spider silk-based protein to capture and hold onto another protein that enhances the growth of nerve cells.
In a new paper, they outline how they used a lab-produced spider silk -- based on the form of silk used by spiders to wrap prey -- to develop a material that forms a transparent film capable of supporting and enhancing neuron-like cell growth.
This innovative material will be further developed into forms that could be applied directly to an injury site and help stimulate nerve regeneration, filling an important gap in the treatment of nerve injuries.
Dr. Jan Rainey, a professor in Dal's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, led this research project, working closely with Dr. John Frampton from Dal’s School of Biomedical Engineering and Dr. Xiang-Qin (Paul) Liu from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Dr. Rainey is available to discuss how this material could be used in nerve regeneration.
Senior Research Reporter
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