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?
- Debunking: A President Of The US Could Order A Nuclear Attack At A Moments Notice On A Whim
- For New President - Is Moon More Interesting Next Step For Astronauts Than Boulder Plucked From Asteroid?
- A Dimuon Particle At 30 GeV In ALEPH ??
- BPA-Free, With Regrets
- Who Is Trying To Destroy The Internet?
- Was Euclid A Black Woman? Sorting Through The False History And Bad Philosophy Of Mathematics
- President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science
- "Haha get ready people your all about to be in for a shock then lets see who is a liar anybody want..."
- "Quite simply, the structure does not exist. What is observed is a fluctuation.BestT...."
- "First of all you are describing the binding of gluons flying away in opposite directions - zero..."
- "This is a joke, right?..."
- "Yes, exactly. I go into it some more here:..."
- Kathleen Gyllenhaal: Health meets Hollywood Q&A
- How Many Genes Does It Take to Make a Person?
- To Avoid Adult Dysfunction Start 'IN UTERO'
- ACSH Medical Director Named One Of America's Top Pediatricians, We're In The Economist, And More
- The Math of Hunting and Fishing: When to Work Together
- Placebo: Bubbles Of Nothing Are Still Not Something