You probably know that metal is a good conductor of electricity. And if you weren’t aware of that, take my advice and keep the fork away from the toaster.
The body’s nervous system conducts electricity, too. So researchers in Beijing have put two and two together- why not use metal to help repair damaged nerves?
Nerve damage is tricky- not only can it cause a spectrum of different pain sensations, but it’s generally hard to repair. Current methods for grafting nerves back together are risky, and the potential for muscle damage is a concern.
By using a liquid metal alloy (no, not steel, but gallium, indium, and selenium), researchers were able to bridge the gap between nerves in bullfrog legs. They found that this alloy conducted electrical signals about as well as a healthy nerve would! And not to worry- this alloy is a liquid at room temperature, so once the nerve has healed, it can be removed with a syringe. While there are definitely some limitations to the use of metal in the human body, the potential for its use in promoting nerve growth and healing is interesting. Read more about it here:
Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that can be difficult to treat. The tumors are often located in inaccessible areas, making surgery impossible. So researchers in Atlanta got creative and figured out a way to make the cancer cells more accessible. And their technique is not unlike the concept of a mouse trap- but for this one, rats helped figure it out!
Glioblastoma cells migrate along nerves and blood vessels. And researchers used that information to their advantage by creating a small rod that mimics the shape of these nerves and blood vessels. Through animal studies in rats, they’ve shown that the cancer cells then ‘take the bait’ and migrate along this rod. At the end of the rod, the cells are met with a cancer-killing drug. So instead of delivering drugs to the tumor, the tumor comes to the drug!
This could make a huge difference for patients with inoperable tumors. Not only could this cancer cell “mouse trap” lure cells into an area that would be easier for doctors to access, but it could also work by shrinking slow-growing tumors to the point where they wouldn’t be able to do as much damage. Let’s hope that this treatment makes its way into human trials quickly!