The combination of graphene nanoribbons made with a process developed at Rice University and a common polymer could someday be of critical importance to healing damaged spinal cords in people, according to Rice chemist James Tour. The Tour lab has spent a decade working with graphene nanoribbons, starting with the discovery of a chemical process to “unzip” them from multi-walled carbon nanotubes, as revealed in a Nature paper in 2009.
Now their work to develop nanoribbons for medical applications has resulted in a material dubbed Texas-PEG that may help knit damaged or even severed spinal cords. A paper on the results of preliminary animal-model tests appears today in the journal Surgical Neurology International. Graphene nanoribbons customized for medical use by William Sikkema, a Rice graduate student and co-lead author of the paper, are highly soluble in polyethylene glycol (PEG), a biocompatible polymer gel used in surgeries, pharmaceutical products and in other biological applications. When the biocompatible nanoribbons have their edges functionalized with PEG chains and are then further mixed with PEG, they form an electrically active network that helps the severed ends of a spinal cord reconnect. “Neurons grow nicely on graphene because it’s a conductive surface and it stimulates neuronal growth,” Tour said.
See the full story by Mike Williams at Rice University News HERE
See the Engadget Article by Jamie Rigg HERE
See the Science Daily Article HERE