Injuries to peripheral nerves — tissues that transmit bioelectrical signals from the brain to whole body parts — result in chronic pain, neurologic disorders, paralysis, or disability. Now, researchers have developed a stretchable conductive hydrogel that would someday be wont to repair these sorts of nerves when there’s damage. They report their leads to ACS Nano.
Injuries in which a peripheral nerve has been completely severed, like a deep cut from an accident, are difficult to treat. a standard strategy, called autologous nerve transplantation, involves removing a section or part of peripheral nerve from elsewhere in body & sewing it onto the ends of the severed one. However, the surgery doesn’t always restore function, & multiple follow-up surgeries are sometimes needed.
Artificial nerve grafts, together with supporting cells, have also been used, but it often takes a long amount of time for nerves to completely recover. Qun-Dong Shen, Chang-Chun Wang, Ze-Zhang Zhu, & colleagues wanted to develop an efficient, fast-acting treatment that would replace autologous nerve transplantation. For this purpose, they decided to explore conducting hydrogels — water-swollen, biocompatible polymers which can transmit bioelectrical signals.
The researchers prepared a difficult but stretchable conductive hydrogel containing polyaniline & polyacrylamide. The crosslinked polymer had a 3D microporous network that, once implanted, allowed nerve cells to enter & cling , helping restore lost tissue.
The team showed that material could-conduct bioelectrical signals through a damaged sciatic nervus take-out from a toad. Then, they implanted hydrogel into rats with sciatic nervus injuries. 2 weeks later, the rats’ nerves recovered their bioelectrical properties, and their walking improved compared with untreated rats. Because the electricity-conducting properties of material improve with irradiation by near-infrared light, which may penetrate tissues, it might be possible to further enhance nerve conduction & recovery in this way, the researchers say.
The authors acknowledge funding from National Key Research & Development Program of China, National science Foundation of China, Program for Changjiang Scholars & Innovative Research Team in University, & Program B for Outstanding Ph.D. Candidate of Nanjing University.