An implant in combination with a gel was found to restore the functionality of a torn or damaged nerve. The innovative project's initial successes were reported recently at several renowned scientific congresses, and the therapy, already tested in animal models, is only a few years away from clinical use, Rochkind said.
A nerve is like an electrical cable, which loses its functionality when it is either severed or damaged.
Similarly, a nerve that is damaged loses the ability to transfer signals for movement and feeling through the nervous system.
But in Rochkind and Nevo's method, the two severed ends of a damaged nerve are reconnected by implanting a soft, biodegradable tube that serves as a bridge to help the nerve ends connect.
Rochkind said that the innovative gel named Guiding Regeneration Gel (GRG), which lines the inside of the tube, nurtures nerve fibers' growth, encouraging the nerve to reconnect the severed ends through the tube, even in cases with massive nerve damage.
The researchers said that the key lies in the composition of the gel, which has three main components: anti-oxidants, which exhibit high anti-inflammatory activities; synthetic laminin peptides, which act as a railway or track for the nerve fibers to grow along; and hyaluronic acid, commonly found in the human fetus, which serves as a buffer against drying, a major danger for most implants.
They said that these components allow the nerve to heal the way a fetus does in the womb - quickly and smoothly.
Rochkind said that GRG is not only able to preserve cells, it can support their survival while being used for therapy and transplantation.
When grown in the gel, cells show excellent development, as well as intensive fiber growth, which could have implications for the treatment of diseases like Parkinson's, for which researchers are actively exploring cell therapy as a potential solution.