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Lab-grown nerves promote nerve regeneration after injury
Date:3/19/2009

PHILADELPHIA Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have engineered transplantable living nerve tissue that encourages and guides regeneration in an animal model. Results were published this month in Tissue Engineering.

About 300,000 Americans suffer peripheral nerve injuries every year, in many cases resulting in permanent loss of motor function, sensory function, or both. These injuries are a common consequence of trauma or surgery, but there are insufficient means for repair, according to neurosurgeons. In particular, surgeons need improved methods to coax nerve fibers known as axons to regrow across major nerve injuries to reconnect healthy targets, for instance muscle or skin.

"We have created a three-dimensional neural network, a living conduit in culture, which can be transplanted en masse to an injury site," explains senior author Douglas H. Smith, MD, Professor, Department of Neurosurgery and Director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at Penn. Smith and colleagues have successfully grown, transplanted, and integrated axon bundles that act as 'jumper cables' to the host tissue in order to bridge a damaged section of nerve."

Previously, Smith and colleagues have "stretch-grown" axons by placing neurons from rat dorsal root ganglia (clusters of nerves just outside the spinal cord) on nutrient-filled plastic plates. Axons sprouted from the neurons on each plate and connected with neurons on the other plate. The plates were then slowly pulled apart over a series of days, aided by a precise computer-controlled motor system.

These nerves were elongated to over 1 cm over seven days, after which they were embedded in a protein matrix (with growth factors), rolled into a tube, and then implanted to bridge a section of nerve that was removed in a rat.

"That creates what we call a 'nervous-tissue construct'," says Smith. "We have designed a cylinder that looks similar to t
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Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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