Spun-sugar fibres spawn easy nerve repair technique

February 27th, 2009 - 5:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 27 (IANS) Researchers are relying on spun-sugar filaments to create a scaffold of tiny synthetic tubes to help regenerate nerves severed in accidents or blood vessels damaged by disease.
The sugar filaments are coated with a corn-based degradable polymer, and then the sugar is dissolved in water, leaving behind bundles of hollow polymer tubes that mimic those found in nerves, said Riyi Shi, associate professor in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Basic Medical Sciences.

The scaffold could be used to promote nerve regeneration by acting as a bridge placed between the ends of severed nerves, said biomedical engineering doctoral student Jianming Li, member of Shi’s team that developed the technique.

About 800,000 peripheral nerve injuries are reported annually in the US, with about 50,000 requiring surgery. The approach also might have applications in repairing blood vessels damaged by trauma and disease such as atherosclerosis and diabetes, Shi said.

The new approach represents a potential alternative to the conventional surgical treatment, which uses a nerve “autograft” taken from the leg or other part of the body to repair the injured nerves.

Researchers are trying to develop artificial scaffolds to replace the autografts because removing the donor nerve causes a lack of sensation in the portion of the body where it was removed, said a Purdue release.

“The autograft is the lesser of two evils because you have to sacrifice a healthy nerve to repair a damaged segment,” said Li, who led the research.

These finding were published in Langmuir.

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