Gelling with nerve regrowth

Andrew Rodda, PhD student and Fresh Scientist, is researching new materials to encourage the regeneration of nerve cells damaged by injury or conditions like Parkinson’s disease.

The secret is a gel called xyloglucan, which is actually made from the seeds of the tamarind tree, Tamarindus indica.

Leaves and seed pod of the tamarind tree
Leaves and seed pod of the tamarind tree, useful for making new nerve cells and Worcestershire sauce (Photo by Tauʻolunga, via Wikimedia Commons)
The material actually starts out as a liquid that can be injected into empty spaces left by the cells that have died. But what makes it so special is that when it reaches body temperature it turns into a thick gel, which creates a stable environment and a support structure for new cells to grow.

This may be cutting-edge neuroscience, but the innovative material itself comes from the Materials Engineering team at Monash University, where Andrew is studying for his PhD – a great example of cross-disciplinary research.

You can read more about Andrew’s research at the Monash University website.


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