By developing very fine mesh fibres, measuring several hundred nanometers in diameter, and reducing the crystallinity, the team successfully created a very soft mesh that can be wrapped around a nerve.
This mesh is made of a biodegradable plastic which, when implanted in animals, is eventually eliminated from the body.
Experiments demonstrated that application of the mesh directly to injured sciatic nerves in rats resulted in regeneration of axons and recovery of motor and sensory functions within six weeks.
The team is currently negotiating with a pharmaceutical company and other organizations to jointly study clinical application of the mesh as a medical device to treat peripheral nerve disorders.
According to the NIMS-Osaka University joint research team, artificial nerve conduits have been developed in the past to treat peripheral nerve injuries, but they merely form a cross-link to the injury site and do not promote faster nerve regeneration.
“Moreover, their application is limited to relatively few patients suffering from a complete loss of nerve continuity,” they said.
Ineffective oral administration
Vitamin B12 has been known to facilitate nerve regeneration, but oral administration has not proven to be very effective, and no devices capable of delivering vitamin B12 directly to affected sites had been available.
“This mesh incorporates vitamin B12—a substance vital to the normal functioning of nervous systems—which is very soft and degrades in the body. When the mesh was applied to injured sciatic nerves in rats, it promoted nerve regeneration and recovery of their motor and sensory functions,” added the researchers, led by Mitsuhiro Ebara, MANA associate principal investigator, Mechanobiology Group, at NIMS, and Hiroyuki Tanaka, assistant professor, Orthopaedic Surgery, at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine.