New Hope For Regenerating Damaged Nerves
According to a study published in the journal PLoS One, a new way to regenerate damaged nerves has been discovered. Dr.Jason Huang, associate professor of Neurosurgery and chief of Neurosurgery at Highland Hospital, and his colleagues, discovered that the dorsal root ganglion neurons (DRG cells) help new nerves to form, without triggering an immune response from the body.
This represents a remarkable finding because more than 350, 000 patients every year in the United States suffer from severe lesions that affects their peripheral nerves. In order for a nerve to heal itself, the two portions, that are in good condition, must find each other and reconnect. This is a natural process that occurs only when the injury is small. However, when the wound is to severe, the nerve is not capable of repairing itself.
Dr. Huang, associate professor of Neurosurgery and chief of Neurosurgery at Highland Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center, pointed out that this kind of injuries are very serious and, although there are many options of treatment, none of them is ideal. Along with his team, Dr. Huang intends to grow living nerves in the laboratory and then to transplant them. This way patients would recover their nerve functions more rapidly.
The technique used by Dr. Huang to reconnect a damaged nerve is represented by transplantation. He harvested a patient’s healthy nerve tissue and then transplanted back into the injured area. There is no immune response from the body since the tissue comes from the same patient.
However, this technique cannot be performed in all patients. Those who are victims of car accidents, thus having multiple injuries, cannot be treated this way. Other methods include nerve transplantation from cadavers or animals, with the disadvantages of immunosuppressant therapy.
One modern technology in regenerating damaged nerves is represented by NeuraGen Nerve Guide, a technique used by Dr. Huang and other neurosurgeons. This procedure involves inserting a collagen tube through which parts of damage nerve cells can find each other and reconnect easier. NeuraGen Nerve Guide seems to be the best way to regenerate damaged nerves over short distances.
In the PLoS study, Dr. Huang and his team examined different methods to regenerate damaged nerves in rats. The researchers took nerve cells from different species of rats and transplanted them into the wound area. NeuraGen technology was used alone or in combination with DRG cells or with Schwann cells. The results revealed that tubes that contains DRG cells, unlike Schwann cells, did not trigger any immune response.