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Silly Putty Could Help Us Grow Spinal Cords

By Brian Stallard

Stretchy and malleable Silly Putty appears to be useful in helping embryonic stem cells turn into working spinal cord cells, according to a past study.

No, this is not some belated April Fool’s Day prank. Scientists from the University of Michigan have developed a way to use a key ingredient of Silly Putty to form “ultrafine carpets” on which working motor neurons are grown from embryonic stem cells. Researchers are calling this new technique far more efficient compared to past strategies to encourage differentiation – the changing of a stem cells to any other kind of cell.

According to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Materials, the Silly Putty ingredient polydimethylsiloxane – which gives the child’s toy its stretchy nature – boosts the speed and rate at which embryonic stem cells differentiate.

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