Skip to main content
Email Print Share

Engineering a spinal cord repair kit -- Science Nation


Polina Anikeeva hopes to one day be able to regenerate the spinal cord to restore movement for paralyzed people or possibly bypass the spinal cord altogether with a device that mimics its function. With support from NSF, the materials scientist and her team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are engineering a nerve repair "tool kit," with an eye toward repairing damaged nerves and even growing new ones. They're designing multifunctional polymer strands--thinner than a human hair--that would be implanted right alongside damaged neurons. The strands can have hollow channels to deliver drugs, embedded electrodes to send electrical signals, or optical guides to transmit light for optogenetics, a method for switching nerve signals on and off.

The team is also designing fibers that can act as tiny scaffolds or 3-D structures, to support new nerve tissue as it grows or even accelerate the growth. The ultimate goal is to help doctors treat diseases such as Parkinson's, schizophrenia and depression, in addition to healing spinal injuries. Anikeeva's research helps advance NSF's efforts to enable scientific understanding of the full complexity of the brain, in action and in context.

Original air date: February 29, 2016

Credit: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Video Transcript:
Downloads, text version and related information

More Information:
This is an episode from Science Nation, NSF's online magazine that's all about science for the people.

 
General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Videos credited to the National Science Foundation, an agency of the U.S. Government, may be distributed freely. However, some materials within the videos may be copyrighted. If you would like to use portions of NSF-produced programs in another product, please contact the Video Team in the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs at the National Science Foundation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.