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'Dr Who tool' mends nerves

SCIENTISTS say they have worked out a way to join up damaged nerves using a "sonic screwdriver".

The researchers, at Glasgow University, say the Dr Who-like device, called a heptagon acoustic tweezer, allows them to tweak the cells in nerve tissue.

Previous methods of so-called "cell patterning" have been found to be either inflexible, limited or too expensive and time-consuming.

But the university team, involving a range of researchers from engineering to biology, say they have discovered a novel, electronically controlled method for generating dynamic cell patterns using a device based on acoustic force for spatial manipulation of cells and particles - "a specific kind of sonic screwdriver".

Dr Anne Bernassau, fellow in sensor systems at the university, said that using this sonic device, the team were able to manipulate cells into complex assemblies, which she called "a cell tartan".

They were then able to demonstrate that this cell tartan could aid neurone alignment, an important preliminary step towards nerve repair.

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