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Promising new technology may help heal spinal cord injuries

Medical research out of Rice University may change the way spinal cord injuries are treated in North Carolina. Researchers at Rice have spent 10 years developing a material made of graphene nanoribbons that may help repair spinal cord damage.

The journey began when researchers discovered a chemical process that unzips the ribbons from nanotubes of carbon. Nanoribbons have dozens of uses; they've already been used to improve batteries, natural gas containers and airplane wings. Researchers have developed a material called Texas-PEG which may help grow neurons.

There is more than one lab that has demonstrated graphene's usefulness in regrowing neural cells. The difference with the Rice University research is that their scientists are using polymer chains to preserve conductivity. Nanoribbons might allow medical professionals to use smaller amounts of graphene, thus allowing more room for spinal cord pathways. Texas-PEG was successfully used to restore function for a rodent whose spinal cord had been completely severed.

According to the lead researcher on the project, the rodent's spinal cord allowed signals to pass within 24 hours after the procedure. Within two weeks, the animal had recovered near perfect motor control. The research is promising, and the technology is a significant advance over using polyethylene glycol alone, according to researchers.

Falls and motor vehicle accidents are among the most typical causes of spinal cord injuries. An individual who has suffered an injury caused by another party's negligence may want to discuss the circumstances of the injury with an attorney. A lawyer with experience in personal injury law may be able to help injured parties secure compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other damages.

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