Another Line of Nerve Regeneration Research

A look at ongoing work on nerve regeneration in one laboratory: "One technology used [by] neurosurgeons is the NeuraGen Nerve Guide, a hollow, absorbable collagen tube through which nerve fibers can grow and find each other. The technology is often used to repair nerve damage over short distances less than half an inch long. ... [Researchers] compared several methods to try to bridge a nerve gap of about half an inch in rats. The team transplanted nerve cells from a different type of rat into the wound site and compared results when the NeuraGen technology was was used alone or when it was paired with [dorsal root ganglion neurons, or DRG cells], or with other cells known as Schwann cells. After four months, the team found that the tubes equipped with either DRG or Schwann cells helped bring about healthier nerves. In addition, the DRG cells provoked less unwanted attention from the immune system than the Schwann cells, which attracted twice as many macrophages and more of the immune compound interferon gamma. While both Schwann and DRG cells are known players in nerve regeneration, Schwann cells have been considered more often as potential partners in the nerve transplantation process, even though they pose considerable challenges because of the immune system's response to them. ... In a related line of research, [scientists] are creating DRG cells in the laboratory by stretching them, which coaxes them to grow about one inch every three weeks. The idea is to grow nerves several inches long in the laboratory, then transplant them into the patient, instead of waiting months after surgery for the nerve endings to travel that distance within the patient to ultimately hook up."



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