A liquid that forms a gel-like mass of nanofibres on contact with water could provide the most promising vehicle yet for the regeneration of damaged spinal cords.

Their scaffold consists of molecules containing a fragment of the natural protein laminin, called IKVAV. This is known to promote the growth of long neuronal fibres or axons.

Within seconds of these molecules coming into contact with water, electrostatic forces drive them to form a tangle of long, slender fibres that are thousands of nanometres long but only seven nanometres in diameter. In gross terms, this structural change means the solution turns into a gel.

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