The clothing industry discovered decades ago that a mix of natural and synthetic fibers, like taking cotton and adding polyester, can make clothing that's soft, breathable and wrinkle free.
Now researchers at the University of Washington are using the same principle for biomedical applications. Mixing chitosan, found in the shells of crabs and shrimp, with an industrial polyester creates a promising new material for the tiny tubes that support repair of a severed nerve, and could serve other medical uses. The hybrid fiber combines the biologically favorable qualities of the natural material with the mechanical strength of the synthetic polymer.
After an injury that severs a peripheral nerve, such as one in a finger, nerve endings continue to grow. But to regain control of the nerve surgeons must join the two fragments. For large gaps surgeons used to attempt a more difficult nerve graft. Current surgical practice is to attach tiny tubes, called nerve guides, that channel the two fragments toward each other.
Left panel shows a closeup of chitosan and polyester fibers woven at the nanometer scale. The middle panel shows a nerve cell growing on the resulting mesh, which has a texture similar to the body's fibrous connective tissue. The right panel shows a cross-section of the synthetic nerve guide. Arrows point to nerve cells that have attached to the inner and outer surfaces of the tube. Photo Credit: University of Washington
"A nerve guide requires very strict conditions. It needs to be biocompatible, stable in solution, resistant to collapse and also pliable, so that surgeons can suture it to the nerve," said Miqin Zhang, a UW professor of material science and engineering and lead author of a paper now available online in the journal Advanced Materials. "This turns out to be very difficult."
Today's commercial nerve guides are made from collagen, a structural protein derived from animal cells. But collagen is expensive, the protein tends to trigger an immune response and the material is weak in wet environments, such as those inside the body. The strength of the nerve guide is important for budding nerve cells.
"This conduit serves as a guide to protect the neuron from injury," Zhang said. "If the tube is made of collagen, it's difficult to keep the conduit open because any stress and it's going to collapse."
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Top Secret: On Confidentiality On Scientific Issues, Across The Ring And Across The Bedroom
- The Mystery Of The Red Sea
- Would New Planet X Clear Its Orbit? - And Any Better Name Than "Planet Nine"?
- Stop Using BMI To Determine Health
- The Greenhouse Effect Fallacy
- Intense Work Helped Michelangelo Maintain Use Of Hands Despite Osteoarthritis
- Why Diamonds Are More Of A Scientific Miracle Than You Think
- "This article calls to mind the Diamond Group at the Reading University Physics Department. They..."
- "Greetings Robert. Thanks again for your thoughts on God. I read your two statements and here are..."
- "Hello Vance,yes I know about that model, and about at least two experimental attempts, one with..."
- "No, I am not from the states. It sounds like an astonishing arrangement to have multiple jurisdiction..."
- "Very true. The observation I've made is that in 2001 it was John F. Nash and Alicia DeLarde ..."
- Indonesia’s Many Human Physical Deformities: A Closer Look
- Spinal ‘Column’: Love for Hunchback Dog, Breakthrough for 8-Yr-Old Girl
- BMI is Bologna
- Energy Drinks: The Dose Makes the Poison
- California’s Prop 65: Bad For Public Acceptance Of Science, About To Get Worse
- Wear Red Today! It’s Women’s Heart Health Awareness Day
- Cambridge researcher develops smartphone app to map Swiss-German dialects
- Studies link healthy workforces to positive stock market performance
- Pioneering discovery leads to potential preventive treatment for sudden cardiac death
- Online shopping might not be as green as we thought
- Gene family turns cancer cells into aggressive stem cells that keep growing