Graphene Nanoribbons – The Newest Way to Treat Spinal Cord Injuries

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A mixture of graphene nanoribbons prepared with a procedure introduced at Rice University and a popular polymer could someday be of crucial significance to healing injured spinal cords in individual, according to the Rice Chemist James Tour. The laboratory of Tour has spent years working with graphene based nanoribbons, beginning with the invention of a chemical procedure to ‘unzip’ them from multi-layered carbon nanotubes. The scientists have utilized it to improve materials, enhance batteries and less-permeable containers for storage of gas.

Now their study to introduce nanoribbons for medical usage has led to a material dubbed Texas-PEG, which may assist knit injured or even damaged spinal cords. Graphene-based nanoribbons personalized for medical usage by William Sikkema, a graduate from Rice and co-author of the study are exceedingly soluble in PEG or polyethylene glycol, a biocompatible polymer gel that is used in pharmaceutical items, surgeries and in all sorts of biological applications.

When the compatible nanoribbons functionalize their edges with PEG chains and are further amalgamated with PEG, they create an electronically active network that assists the severed ends of a spinal cord to rejoin. “Neurons culture nicely on graphene as it is a conductive surface and it boosts neuronal growth,” says Tour. In studies at Rice and other regions, neurons have been identified expanding along graphene.

“We are not the only laboratory that has illustrated neurons expanding on graphene in a petri dish,” he says. “The difference is another laboratory is popularly testing with water-based graphene oxide that is much less conductive than graphene or non-ribbon structures of graphene.

“We have introduced a technique to supplement water-solubilizing polymer links to the edges of our nanoribbons that stores their conductivity while interpreting them soluble, and we are just now beginning to witness the possible for this in biomedical applications,” he says. He further stated that ribbonized graphene structures enable for much lesser amounts to be utilized while restoring a conductive pathway that rectifies the injured spinal cord.

“It is a major advancement over conventional work with PEG alone that offer no recovery of sensory brain signals over the same period of time and just 10 percent motor regulation over four weeks,” says Tour. The project instigated when Sikkema studied the work by Italy based neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero considered nanoribbons might improve the research that depended on the potential of PEG to boost the fusion of cell membranes by supplementing electrical conductivity as well as directional regulation for neurons as they moved across the gap between various sections of the spinal cord.

According to Tour, “it is an exciting neurophysiological examination following absolute severance of the spinal cord.” He further added, “It is not a just behavioral study of the repair. The divergent singular locomotive experiment here is an intriguing marker, but it is not mathematically significant group of animals. The further phases of the study will accentuate the behavioral and locomotive skills with statistical importance to analyze whether such qualities are as per the favorable neurophysiology that has been recorded by us.”