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June 2, 2010

A material found in lobster shells helps repair damaged nerves.


Shells for spinal cords…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A tough material called chitin found in crustacean shells can do more than help protect shrimps, crabs, and lobsters. Researchers have found that a derivative of chitin can repair spinal cord injury. Richard Borgens is director of Purdue University’s Center for Paralysis Research. He and his colleagues found that the sugar chitosan repaired damaged nerves in the test tube.

RICHARD BORGENS (Purdue University):
And we did a first study…where we actually looked in the whole guinea pig with the spinal cord injury to see if it would restore the ability to restore nerve pulses through that injury, and it did.

Borgens says chitosan is non-toxic and safe to use in the body. The researchers plan to do more testing and hope to begin clinical trials in humans within two years. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.