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New approach to repair peripheral nerve damage

Tuesday January 18th 2022

New ideas for repairing peripheral nerve damage have been announced by a team of researchers in Ireland.

A pre-clinical study, published in *Matrix Biology*, shows that using extracellular matrix (ECM) supports improved nerve fibre regeneration across large nerve defects without the need for additional cells or growth factors.

Researchers from the RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, AMBER, and the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research used a nerve guidance conduit, a novel ECM-loaded medical device, which resulted in improved recovery responses at eight weeks following the repair of traumatic nerve lacerations with substantial loss of tissue.

When they fine-tuned the combination and ratio of ECM proteins and loaded them into the nerve guidance conduit, they found they could support increased pro-repair inflammation, increase blood vessel density and the density of regenerating nerves, compared to standard care.

The team, which also included global medical technology company Integra LifeSciences, say the new approach may eliminate the need for additional stem cells and drug therapies.

Lead authors Drs Alan Hibbitts and Zuzana Kocí, of the Tissue Engineering Research Group based at RCSI’s Department of Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine, and AMBER, said: “In our lab-based trials, we discovered that at eight weeks post implantation our nerve guidance conduit had successfully improved the prognosis for nerve regeneration and repair over the current clinical gold standard.

“Our conduit supported clear improvements in nerve repair and blood vessel formation and most importantly, we saw that we could scale this up to approach very large nerve defects in our pre-clinical studies.”

Principal investigator Fergal O’Brien, professor of Bioengineering and Regenerative Medicine, Head of Tissue Engineering Research Group at RCSI and Deputy Director of AMBER, added: “Our new ECM-enhanced nerve guidance conduits are part of my team’s ongoing research to address long peripheral nerve defects in partnership with Integra LifeSciences.

“The outputs from this project will address increasingly challenging nerve defect distances with the ambition to relieve the current clinical reliance on grafted nerves and move into the next phase of pre-clinical trials.”

Hibbitts AJ, Kocí Z, Kneafesy S et al. Multi-Factorial Nerve Guidance Conduit Engineering Improves Outcomes in Inflammation, Angiogenesis and Large Defect Nerve Repair. *Matrix Biology* 13 January 2022


Tags: Brain & Neurology | Europe

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