Scientists have developed a new restorative gel, which they claim increases nerve growth and healing, that may help in reversing paralysis.
Through a biodegradable implant in combination with the newly-developed guiding regeneration gel (GRG) that increases nerve growth and healing, the functionality of a torn or damaged nerve could ultimately be restored, researchers say.
Some parts of the body, like the liver, can regenerate themselves after damage. But others, such as our nervous system, are considered either irreparable or slow to recover, leaving thousands with a lifetime of pain, limited mobility, or even paralysis.
The therapy, already tested in animal models, is only a few years away from clinical use, said Dr. Shimon Rochkind of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.
A nerve is like an electrical cable. When severed or otherwise damaged, power can no longer be transferred and the cable loses its functionality.
Similarly, a damaged nerve loses the ability to transfer signals for movement and feeling through the nervous system.
Dr. Rochkind and Professor Zvi Nevo of TAU’s Department of Human Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry found a way to breach the gap.
In their method, two severed ends of a damaged nerve are reconnected by implanting a soft, biodegradable tube, which serves as a bridge to help the nerve ends connect.
The innovative gel, which lines the inside of the tube nurtures nerve fibres’ growth, encouraging the nerve to reconnect the severed ends through the tube, even in cases with massive nerve damage, Dr. Rochkind said.
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 fibres to grow along and hyaluronic acid, commonly found in the human foetus, which serves as a buffer against drying, a major danger for most implants, researchers said.
These components allow the nerve to heal the way a foetus does in the womb — quickly and smoothly.
The implant has already been tested in animal models, and the gel by itself can be used as a standalone product, acting as an aid to cell therapy.
GRG is not only able to preserve cells, it can support their survival while being used for therapy and transplantation, said Dr. Rochkind.