AXA Research Fund has awarded the Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials, Biomagune, in San Sebastian, a permanent chair to the team led by Professor Maurizio Prato. The funding amounts to 800,000 euros and will help us understand the practical applications of new materials, such as carbon nanotubes and graphene, in the field of neuroscience and spinal cord injuries.
Jean-Paul Rignault, CEO of AXA Spain and spokesperson of the AXA Research Fund in Spain, has said he is “very proud to have new outstanding and innovative projects carried out in Spain”, and has added that “supporting the scientific community is essential not only to help spread knowledge, but to contribute to the understanding of risks affecting our society and thereby preventing it”.
The main objective of this project is to provide a new understanding of this type of injuries, which are a major social challenge as they may end up in a partial or a complete paralysis of the individual, having devastating consequences on life quality and care needs of the people who suffer them.
These research results will allow significant progress on treatments based on carbon nanomaterials, which help in neuronal regeneration thanks to their ability to reconnect whole pieces of spinal cord. Carbon nanotubes are cylindrical structures, 15,000 times smaller than a human hair, which have an extremely efficient to transport electricity. These carbon materials help neurons to exchange electrical signals without causing rejection from the tissues but allow nerve cells to grow along their structure.
The idea is to restore the connections of a severed spinal cord using nanotubes as ‘scaffold’ enabling nerve cells to grow through them. “This is a work of basic science, and it must pass a long time to reach its application on patients, but we hope that this work will serve to treat spinal cord injuries,” Prato said.
In turn, within the European macro-project called “Graphene Flagship”, researchers will develop a series of sensors and electrodes for brain stimulation based on graphene. This material will be deposited on substrates such as silicon or other similar semiconductors to develop the aforementioned biological applications.
This funding of 800,000 euros is added to the amount that AXA Research Fund has recently awarded to other Spanish projects, including two permanent chairs: the AXA chair on quantum cryptography by Professor Antonio Acín at the Institute of photonic sciences and the AXA Chair on sand and duststorms at Barcelona Supercomputing Center that analyzes sand- and dust storm predictions, leaded by the environmental engineer Carlos Pérez García-Pando.