doi:10.1038/nindia.2015.100 Published online 30 July 2015
By mixing silk protein with gold nanoparticles, researchers have synthesized a nanocomposite that can promote the regeneration of peripheral nerve cells damaged by injury. This nanocomposite is potentially useful for neural tissue engineering applications1.
Severe nerve injuries such as neurotmesis completely sever peripheral nerve tissues. Existing therapies involve surgically implanting the patients’ own nerve tissues, but they do not efficiently regenerate lost tissue.
To devise an efficient nerve-growing technique, the researchers synthesized the tubular nanocomposite by mixing gold nanoparticles with silk protein nanofibres.
They then probed the effectiveness of the nanocomposite in regenerating damaged sciatic nerve in rats. Magnetic resonance imaging of the thigh region after implantation revealed that the nanocomposite had been accurately implanted and was not delocalized.
All the implanted nanocomposites were structurally intact after 18 months and continued to adhere to the microsutured proximal and distal nerve ends. Furthermore, all the rats lived normal life spans, indicating that the nanocomposite-based implants were safe and biocompatible.
Electrophysiological studies and locomotion-related analyses revealed that rats with nanocomposite-based implants could perform intense physical activities such as stretching and jumping and resume a normal life.