Safely and Cost-Effectively Repairs Nerve Cuts Greater than Two Centimeters with Magnetically-Templated Scaffolding
This magnetically aligned tissue engineering scaffold potentially enables nerve regeneration in missing nerve gaps over two centimeters long. In humans, the peripheral nerves connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. The side effects of cut nerves can include loss of feeling in limbs and sharp pain. Today, the nerve repair market in the United States is about $1.3-$1.9 billion with more than 200,000 peripheral nerve injury repair procedures conducted each year. To fill missing nerve gaps longer than two centimeters, doctors can use nerves from another part of a patient’s body in a procedure called autograft. However, autografts can cause the patient to lose use of the nerves in their original location and are known for high failure rates. The leading clinical alternative, allografts, has had success in repairing nerve gaps up to five centimeters, but the procedure is costly to process and poses the risk of transferring diseases. This creates the need for safe and affordable peripheral nerve repair procedures that can repair nerve gaps greater than two centimeters. University of Florida researchers have designed a nerve guide that could potentially guide nerve regrowth through gaps as large as 12 centimeters. The cost-effective procedure relies on tissue engineering scaffolds with magnetically-aligned channels to direct nerve regeneration safely and effectively. The channels are created using a gentle process that allows for potential incorporation of chemical and biological cues to further direct regeneration.
Safe regeneration of cut nerves greater than two centimeters
- Potentially supports nerve regrowth through gaps greater than two centimeters, broadening the patient base by increasing number of treatable peripheral nerve injury cases
- Uses natural and dissolvable biological and chemical materials, reducing risk of rejection by the host body and increasing procedure safety
- Requires a simple process with easy scale-up, reducing costs associated with nerve repair procedures and granting easier access to treatment
- Channels created using a gentle process, allowing for potential incorporation of biological/chemical cues to further enhance regeneration
Previous attempts to fill gaps longer than two centimeters with a type of connecting bridge that attaches to the cut nerve ends and allows nerves to regrow inside – called a nerve guide – have failed or provided suboptimal regrowth of nerves. University of Florida researchers have designed a templated nerve scaffold that uses dissolvable magnetic nanoparticles to leave aligned porous channels in a hydrogel scaffold. A magnetic field aligns the particles in adjacent columns within a gel solution. Then ultraviolet light hardens the hydrogel into a 3D scaffold. Finally, researchers use chemicals to dissolve the particles away. The hydrogel with channels left by the dissolved particles could serve as a template for cut peripheral nerves to regenerate and regrow across a gap greater than 2 centimeters and up to 12 centimeters, in length.