When a nerve in the peripheral nervous system is torn or severed, it can take a long time to regenerate – if it does so at all. Depending on the location of the injury, it can leave the affected part of the patient’s body numb and/or paralyzed for years, or even for the rest of their life. Now, however, scientists from Israel’s Tel Aviv University have created a gel and an implant that they claim could vastly aid in the healing of damaged nerves.
The implant is a tiny pliable biodegradable tube, that is placed around the two cut ends of the nerve. It serves to line them up with one another and hold them together end-to-end, plus its inner surface is coated with the gel.
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Known as Guiding Regeneration Gel (GRG), the substance supports the growth of new nerve fibers via three key components – anti-oxidants, synthetic laminin peptides (amino acid compounds), and hyaluronic acid. The anti-oxidants help prevent inflammation, the peptides provide a sort of guiding line for the nerve fibers to grow along in the gap between the two cut ends, and the hyaluronic acid – which is typically found in the human fetus – keeps everything from drying out. As a result, nerves reportedly heal “quickly and smoothly.”
The implant/gel system has already been successfully tested on lab animals, with clinical use on humans said to be only a few years away. GRG could also be used on its own in the field of cell therapy, as a means of preserving cells for transplantation.