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Tissue Tether: Improved conducting plastic could boost nerve-regeneration success

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10:57am, May 25, 2005

Usually touted as materials for cheap, flexible versions of electronic devices such as computer displays and solar panels, conductive polymers could also have roles in emerging medical technologies. In a new investigation, biomedical engineers have chemically modified a conducting polymer so that it can coax nerve tissue to grow.

Several years ago, Christine Schmidt of the University of Texas at Austin discovered that nerve cells on a film of polypyrrole grow faster when the film is exposed to an electric field. Schmidt suspected the discovery was just a beginning.

"There are so many other signals in the body" that also spur tissue growth, says Schmidt. For instance, cells take cues from a variety of growth-promoting biochemicals.

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