A key element of the ­popular children's toy Silly Putty could help scientists develop stem-cell treatments for nerve and brain disorders such as motor neurone disease and Alzheimer's.

Researchers used the molecule that gives Silly Putty its unusual properties to grow working spinal cord cells on a soft, ultra-fine "carpet". They found that motor nerves grew faster and more often on the material than they did on a normal rigid surface.

The hope is that stem-cell therapies might in future enable patients with motor neurone disease and other conditions affecting the brain and movement to grow new nerves.

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