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?
- Sweet Irony: The Environmental Impacts Of GMO Sugar Science Denial
- Why We Get Tired When We Stay Up Too Late
- When It Comes To Replicating Psychology Studies, Good Luck
- Evidence Of Link Between Childhood Cancer And Phototherapy For Jaundice Examined
- Sexual Harassment in Science What Have We Learned (OP ED)
- Case For Moon - Humans In Space - Open Ended, With Planetary Protection At Its Heart - On The SpaceShow
- How Does Obesity Cause Disease In Organs Distant From Those Where Fat Accumulates?
- "A generalization of the Golden Rule! ..."
- "Are you ever going to get a job, or is part of your therapy spamming and trolling people who actually..."
- "I found a nice quote of yours regarding ACSH but took the liberty of editing a few words to make..."
- "DHMO is a very dangerous chemical, known to give you burns when heated, and it is able to self..."
- "This is pure, unmitigated nonsense. ..."
- New method gives scientists a better look at how HIV infects and takes over its host cells
- Current screening methods miss worrisome number of persons with mild cognitive impairment
- Couples study ties anger to heart problems, stonewalling to back pain
- Northern invaders threaten Antarctic marine life
- Even light drinkers should watch for fatty liver disease