Tamarind can repair damaged brain cells
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Sydney - A compound from
tamarind tree could help spur the growth of damaged brain and spinal cord nerve
cells, which characterises diseases such as Parkinson's.
Doctoral student Andrew Rodda from Monash University's materials engineering
team investigated xyloglucan, a compound from tamarind seeds and how it affects
animals with damaged nerves.
The derivative that Rodda developed from xyloglucan can be injected into an
injury site as a liquid, before becoming a gel as it reaches body temperature.
Once in place, it acts as a support structure through which healthy cells can
migrate and potentially reattach themselves to the nervous system.
Until now, all damage to the nerve cells of the central nervous system - the
brain and spinal cord - had been considered irreparable, according to a Monash
Rodda said the lack of repair or regrowth is due mainly to the toxic environment
left behind after nerve death. "Nerve cells are sensitive, and will only grow in
the most supportive of environments."
"After injury, new cells cannot normally penetrate into the empty space left
after mass cell death. Cells clump at the edges, forming an impenetrable
barrier. This leaves the centre of the wound as a lesion, which contains
chemicals that kill growing nerves."
Rodda said the new compound works by providing a temporary scaffold on which new
cells can grow and penetrate the lesion.
Significantly, it was the helper cells, known as astrocytes, which were the
first to move into the implanted gel. These cells secrete beneficial chemicals,
which may have helped create an environment in which the delicate nerve cells