Scaffold materials are widely used in regenerative research. They often take the form of gels, making it possible to inject and shape the scaffold in damaged internal tissue. These nanoscaled materials are mixed in with signal molecules that spur cell growth. The scaffold both supports cells structurally and encourages them to correctly rebuild natural tissue, complete with its extracellular matrix. The scaffold itself is degraded by cells and replaced by that tissue – at least in the ideal circumstance.
This has been demonstrated in a variety of tissues, particularly muscle, but here researchers have managed a much more challenging feat by convincing the brain to regenerate. It remains to be seen how well this restores lost function; that is much harder to evaluate in animals than the evident fact of structural repair. Nonetheless, this seems an important development. If the central nervous system can be induced to repair itself effectively, that will open a great many doors presently closed in the extension of human life.
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