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Research could lead to spinal cord injury breakthrough

Technology and manufacturing companies in California and around the country have found a number of unusual uses for graphene. The highly flexible material has been used to improve batteries, keep aircraft wings ice free and more make durable natural gas containers, and researchers from Rice University say that combining graphene nano ribbons with a widely used polymer could lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of severe spinal cord injuries.

Graphene has been studied at Rice University for about a decade, and the substance has been able to stimulate the growth of neurons in a laboratory setting. Polyethylene glycol is a common polymer that has been used with some success to repair the damaged spinal cords of animals, and researchers at Rice have combined these two materials to create what is being called Texas-PEG. Scientists say that the hybrid material could act as a scaffold and allow a severed spinal cord to reconnect and heal.

The results of tests performed on a rat with a severe spinal cord injury have been extremely encouraging, and Texas-PEG was able to begin restoring function within 24 hours. After only two weeks, the rat's motor control skills had returned to near pre-injury levels. However, scientists were quick to point out that the road ahead is a long and uncertain one and much more work needs to be done before similar tests can be conducted on human patients.

Individuals who suffer severe spinal cord injuries are often left unable to care for themselves or earn a living. When their suffering is caused by the reckless actions of others, personal injury attorneys may initiate litigation on their behalf. When medical treatment may be required for a lifetime, attorneys may call upon health and financial experts to ensure that the damages sought are sufficient to cover all of the the costs involved.

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