Ragged Nerves

The clear chilly night last night has frozen the peripheral regions of the large pond and the whole of the shallower ones. The ice is thick enough to hold the weight of a tentative goose. As a result, the geese have retired once more to the grass, leaving a just few holdouts honking in derision at their wimpy ex-neighbors. 

By the time I reach the car lots, the nerves in my extremities have ceased sending desperate messages for relief in the form of pain signals and have gone into hibernation mode as the numbness indicates. I have to admire the humor of the car vendors though, as they have moved a red ragtop, with it's roof down, to the front of the display and have a prominent sign shouting "Sporty". Indeed, It should be "Extreme Sporty". If my outer limits are numb when traveling at a speed of 3.5 mph, I can't imagine what bits would be numb dashing about at 20 times that velocity.

The numbness reminds me that the nerve axons carrying signals can be very long and are pretty delicate. My attention was drawn to a paper by Radtke et al, which was published yesterday (1) which described the successful repair of a 6 cm length of axons using a bundle of spider silk as a guide template. A section of nerve in the femur of a sheep was chosen. This is a very interesting development leading to a functional length of remyelinated nerve fiber, which builds on the earlier work of Alimeling et al (2). Spider web has an old use as a clotting aid in wound management.  The structure of spider silk is the result of a couple of simple amino acids (glycine and alanine) joining together and forming sheets, which then form a crystalline structure that is extremely strong. It is kept moist by a small amount of pyrrolidine and acidic by some potassium salts. The latter act as a bactericide and a fungicide.

So don’t stomp or spray those beasties hiding in your drapes and guarding your premises against numerous flying pests. They are more valuable than you think.

2. Alimeling et al, J. Cell. Mol. Med. (2006), 10(3):770–77

One Response so far.

  1. I don't kill spiders, they eat bugs. Real cool about the chemical structure of the webs.

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