Injured nerves are known to sometime repair themselves, and in certain situations autografts can be performed to bridge gaps in their signal path. Self repair is limited to short distances, while autografts have a number of side effects and limitations.
A team of researchers from Penn State and University of Michigan have developed a way of building hydrogel tunnels that can guide the natural growth of nerve endings. They were able to show that the technique works well over a 10mm distance in rats with damaged nerves. The team plans to conduct further tests at longer distances to see whether natural nerve growth will to propagate further within the tunnels.