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Graphene nanoribbons may heal damaged spinal cords

People in Pennsylvania who have suffered serious spinal cord injuries may one day be treated with a material that has been used to strengthen airplane wings and natural gas storage containers. In 2009, scientists at Rice University wrote a paper about the process that they had developed to extract graphene nanoribbons from multi-walled carbon nanotubes. Scientists now think that the material could have medical applications.

Rice researchers are now developing a version of the material that could be used to restore function in damaged spinal cords. The new material, named Texas-PEG, is soluble in a biocompatible gel used for surgeries called polyethylene glycol. Researchers have also found that Texas-PEG can help broken spinal cord ends to reconnect by forming an electrically active network that promotes neuron growth.

One of the researchers said that other labs have also observed neurons growing on graphene, but most of the other labs use graphene oxide. Graphene nanoribbons are more conductive than nonribbonized graphene structures, and only a small amount of Texas-PEG would be needed to create a conductive pathway on a damaged spinal cord. Researchers at Konkuk University in South Korea used Texas-PEG on a rodent with a damaged spinal cord and succeeded in restoring nearly perfect recovery of the animal's motor control after two weeks.

Many people live with permanent disabilities caused by spinal cord injuries. If a person's spinal cord injury was caused by another party's negligence, the injured person may be able to sue for financial compensation. An attorney could help a victim determine what party was at fault and if there is a good case for filing a personal injury claim.

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