Researchers at New York University (NYU) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a biomaterial that supports living nerve cells. The discovery is the latest in a series of developments that has seen inert matter endowed with sentient characteristics.
Todd C. Holmes, assistant professor of biology at NYU and Shuguang Zhang, research scientist at MIT note that the new material can support nerve cell attachment, neurite outgrowth, and the establishment of new functional connections between nerve cells that allow them to communicate with each other.
Unlike other synthetic materials, these peptide materials are completely biological. They are composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins. Thus they don’t evoke an immune response or inflammation in living animals, and they can be used for a variety of applications.
While the biomaterial has not yet been fully tested, it represents an advance in the design of new materials for repairing the damaged nervous system. Future potential therapeutic targets include repair of injured peripheral nerves and possibly even injured spinal cord.
The work was sponsored by Hercules, Inc., the US Army Research Office, the National Institutes of Health and the Whitaker Foundation.