U of C looks to regenerate nerves with microchip
Snail cells and their reaction to an electronically charged microchip has led a team of University of Calgary medical researchers down a path of nerve regeneration they say may pave the way for the reconnection of injured pathways to the brain and spinal cord.
"The work has really just started," said Naweed Sayed, professor and head of cell biology and anatomy in the U of C’s faculty of medicine. "We’re really just learning lessons from nature, adopting them, mocking them in a way that we can mock them by using electronic currents."
Their proof of principle study, based on accumulated research and clinical discoveries with members of their larger team base, revealed that as damaged nerves get cut or crushed, they emit an electrical field and a set of chemicals specific to certain receptors in the brain which stimulate the localized healing process.
The hope is to use the microchips to mimic human electrical impulses, thus triggering the natural regeneration of tissue.
"We could use these chips and take nano-beads, nano-particles, we dip them in that particular scent, and then we hold them on electronic chip
and then what we do is uncage them, release them, and when they release, the injured nerve fibres can actually go and they don’t just stand around, thinking where to go," Sayed said.
The Western Canada Regeneration Initiative, U of C along with counterparts at the universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan received $2.25 million yesterday from the Canadian Institutes of Health and Research to further their work, a crucial cash bath U of C professor of neurosciences Dr. Douglas Zochodne said will help the organization achieve its dream.
"If we can reconnect the nerve and encourage re-growth, maybe not 100 per cent, but every single axon (nerve fibre) that reconnects may add a little bit more function and make it easier for people," he said.