Researchers explore repairing spinal cords with silk
London : Researchers have discovered that cleaned, sterilised silk from Asian wild silkworms had properties well suited to spinal repair, according to a study released on Thursday by the University of Oxford.
Currently there is no cure for serious spinal cord trauma, in part because spinal nerves are unable to cross the scar tissue barrier and the cavity that forms in the cord after the injury, Xinhua news agency reported.
In collaboration with Oxford Biomaterials Ltd, researchers from University of Aberdeen and University of Oxford discovered that the modified silk from Antheraea pernyi (AP) silk spinner had important properties desirable in a scaffold which is capable of bridging the spinal injury cavity and supporting nerve growth across damaged region.
This is yet another example of the value of silks and their derivatives in modern medicine, with its emphasis on using natural regeneration for healing major as well as minor wounds, said Prof. Fritz Vollrath from the University of Oxford.
The modified AP silk has the correct rigidity, does not trigger a response by the immune system cells that would be present in the spinal cord, and degrades gradually over time, according to the report published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The team believed that the discovery is a potentially important step towards the holy grail of medicine -- the repair of the central nervous system.
These are still early bench-based studies but they certainly seem to show that AP silk has fantastic properties, especially suitable for spinal repair, and "we look forward to researching this further", said Dr Wenlong Huang, from the University of Aberdeen.