Researchers in China are touting a hydrogel that could be used to repair certain damaged nerves one day.
Qun-Dong Shen, Chang-Chun Wang, Ze-Zhang Zhu and colleagues are developing a stretchable, conductive hydrogel in an effort to find a method for repairing peripheral nerves that, when damaged, result in chronic pain, neurologic disorders, paralysis or disability. They published their findings in ACS Nano.
A common strategy for treatment in these scenarios is autologous nerve transplantation, which involves removing a section of peripheral nerve from elsewhere in the body and sewing it onto the ends of the severed one. However, it does not always restore function, whereas the fast-acting treatment the researchers are developing could, they believe.
The researchers prepared the hydrogel, comprised of polyaniline and polyacrylamide to create a cross-linked polymer with a 3D microporous network that, once implanted, allowed nerve cells to enter and adhere, helping to restore lost tissue.
In their research, the team showed that the material could conduct bioelectrical signals through a damaged sciatic nerve removed from a toad. Then, they used the hydrogel in rats with sciatic nerve injuries, which led to the rats’ nerves recovering their bioelectrical properties two weeks later.
Funding for the project has come from the National Key Research & Development Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University and Program B for Oustanding Ph.D Candidate of Nanjing University, according to a news release.