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?
- Doomsday Dashboard Makes Tracking The Apocalypse Convenient
- Intellectually Gifted Kids And Learning Disabilities Often Go Hand In Hand
- Confirmation Bias: Why The Moon Gets Blamed For A Lot
- High-Intensity Exercise Is Best Before That High Fat Meal
- Urine Is Not Really Sterile
- Another One Bites The Dust - WW Cross Section Gets Back Where It Belongs
- Men Who Eat Produce That Usually Has Higher Pesticide Residues May Have Lower Semen Quality
- "Could we have a new poster child for junk science? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a correlation..."
- "The hull design is nearly the same today as it was back then because aerodynamics haven't changed..."
- "I think if anything Soyuz would be more sensitive. It is a late 60's design with minor updates..."
- "Agreed, mesons are bosons and hadrons...."
- "I applaud Science 2.0 for bringing this study to light for the public. I perform nerve decompression..."
- Counter-intuitive: Generous welfare benefits make people more likely to want to work, not less
- BHPI: New drug stalls estrogen receptor-positive cancer cell growth and shrinks tumors
- The bacterial genetic pathway reason you may stink
- Eating fruits and vegetables with high pesticide residues linked to poor semen quality
- Temperature-sensitive engineering from nature: From tobacco to cyberwood
Books By Writers Here