Damaged nerves may in the future be repairable with special guides made of artificial polymers as described by researchers at the School of Medicine of the University of Pittsburgh. The researchers have created a biodegradable nerve guide, practically a small tube, made of a particular polymer. The tube is filled with proteins that in turn promote the growth of the damaged nerve section.
This means that, with a biodegradable “bridge” like this, there would be no need for any stem cell or donor nerve transplant. In the study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is described this “nerve guide” made without cells that can “bridge a large 2-inch gap between the nerve stump and its target muscle,” as explained by Kacey Marra, Professor of Plastic Surgery at the aforementioned university and one of the authors of the study.
The problem with damaged nerves lies in the fact that, although they can grow back naturally, they cannot grow back up to a certain length. If the damaged nerve section is too long, the nerve can no longer grow back to its “target.” At this point, the nerve begins to knot and becomes a ball that can also cause pain, a condition called neuroma.
The researchers tested the new nerve guide in the legs of four monkeys and obtained excellent results.