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?
- Lichen: Apparently Happy Couple Really A Threesome
- Why An Extra Planet Can't Be Hidden Behind The Sun Or Above The South Pole
- The Daily Physics Problem - 1
- Curcumin And Silymarin Plant Compounds Give '1-2' Punch To Colon Cancer
- The Daily Physics Problem - 2
- Are Think Tanks More Credible To Government Employees? Not Really
- Hugh Hefner's Wife Was Not Poisoned By Breast Implants
- "Okay, just to pick up on one thing. First, the NASA rover are tested in various deserts, and so..."
- "The moon landings was fake actually all the Apollo missions were fear of the cold war and countries..."
- "Its fairly hard to belive one person who says its not real to the thousands of people who say it..."
- "Small correction: her diagnosis of Lyme disease is also highly dubious. There is a growing cult..."
- "No, it's not. Planets can hide behind the sun for half the year, but it's impossible for a planet..."
- Parasite proteins prompt immune system to fight off ovarian tumors in mice
- Behavioral activation as effective as CBT for depression, at lower cost
- The Lancet: Simpler, cheaper psychological treatment as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy for treating depression
- Ultrasensitive sensor using N-doped graphene
- Brain activity and response to food cues differ in severely obese women, UTSW study shows