Rodents blinded by brain damage (and possibly one day humans) had their vision partially restored within weeks after being treated with nanotechnology developed by bioengineers and neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The findings provide evidence that similar strategies might someday work in humans.
"If we can reconnect parts of the brain that were disconnected by stroke, then we may be able to restore speech to an individual who is able to understand what is said but has lost the ability to speak," study co-author Rutledge G. Ellis-Behnke, research scientist in MIT's department of brain and cognitive sciences, said in a prepared statement.
This method uses an extremely tiny biodegradable scaffold that provides brain cells with a place to re-grow -- like a vine on a trellis -- in the damaged area of the brain. This is the first study to use nanotechnology to repair and heal the brain and restore function in a damaged brain region. The approach may one day help treat stroke patients and people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
The findings will appear online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.