The nerves are one of the parts of the body that have the amazing ability to regrow if damaged. This property sometimes gives hope to patients who have suffered a loss of sensation and/or movement in limbs due to trauma. Such natural healing is usually preceded by surgery to suture or graft damaged nerve endings together. Often times, however, reconstructive surgery just isn’t enough for a full recovery.
Researchers at the University of Sheffield in the U.K. have designed an implant that helps damaged nerves to regenerate. These microscopic devices, known as nerve guidance conduits, or NGC’s, work by providing physical and chemical cues to help nerves grow. Much in the way a garden trellis guides the growth of a vine, these NGC’s, which are made of a biodegradable synthetic polymer material based on polylactic acid, provide channels to promote and guide nerves to grow. Moreover, because of the shape of the NGC’s, the new nerves will form a structure very similar to an undamaged nerve, which researchers hope will also have the functionality of an undamaged nerve too.
In addition to the successes of propagating new nerve cells, researchers consider the method of fabricating the conduits, a special type of 3D laser writing called “two-photon polymerization”, a breakthrough in the process of micromolding.
Article from the University of Sheffield: New technique may help severely damaged nerves regrow and restore function…
Journal abstract from Biofabrication: Two-photon polymerization-generated and micromolding-replicated 3D scaffolds for peripheral neural tissue engineering applications