Nerve injuries can be caused by car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, cuts to the skin and by many other common means. Scientists are now working on new ways to help repair these serious nerve injuries.
Peripheral nerves are those nerves outside the brain and spinal column. When those nerves are injured or severed, they will stop sending messages to the brain. The nerves may regenerate, but it is a very slow process. The nerves only grow back at a rate of 1 to 2 millimeters a day. Thus, it can often take over a year for peripheral nerve injury to heal. During this time, the surrounding muscle can atrophy and this can become a permanent condition which inhibits function of the muscle.
New research at the University of Texas, Austin is being done to speed up the healing times. When a nerve is damaged, it is like a bridge with a section missing, says researched George Bittner. What he and his team are trying to do is put a patch in between the severed portion of the nerve and rejoin the two halves. After the severed nerve is sutured together, chemicals are applied that cause the nerve endings to fuse. The technique uses chemicals that have already been approved to be used on humans.
The results in laboratory testing have been promising. A study was conducted with rats where the sciatic nerves were severed. These nerves control the entire leg, paw and toes of the animal. After the procedure it was hard to tell the rats that had had the procedure from normal rats.
As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I have represented many individuals in personal injury claims where peripheral nerves have been injured. These injuries can be very serious and there are often permanent residual problems such as loss of function, loss of sensation, muscle weakness and even chronic pain. The research being done to speed up the healing process for these type nerve injuries, provides hope for those who may suffer these types of painful injuries in the future. Doctors are optimistic that if these type procedure can help with peripheral nerves that the process can later be used to work on spinal cord injuries, helping those who have suffered paralysis.
New methods could speed up repair of injured nerves, NPR, John Hamilton, February 27, 2012