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Nanomedicine Gives the Way for Nerve Cell Regeneration

spinal cord injuries, and is a vital "next step" in bringing this new technology to clinical use.

The second presentation focuses on peripheral nerve injury, which affects 2.8% of all trauma patients and quite often results in lifelong disability. Since peripheral nerves relay signals between the brain and the rest of the body, injury to these nerves results in loss of sensory and motor function.

Upper extremity paralysis alone affects more than 300,000 individuals annually in the US. The most serious form of peripheral nerve injury is complete severance of the nerve. The severed nerve can regenerate; the nerve fibers from the nerve end closest to the spinal cord have to grow across the injury gap, enter the other nerve segment and then work their way through to their end targets (skin, muscle, etc).

Usually, when the gap between the severed nerve endings is larger than a few millimeters, the nerve does not regenerate on its own. If left untreated, the end result is permanent sensory and motor paralysis. A few hundred thousand people suffer from this debilitating condition annually in the US.

Currently, the most successful form of treatment is to take a section of healthy nerve (autograft) from another part of the patient's body to bridge the damaged one. This autograft then serves as a guide for nerve fibers to cross the injury gap. Although successful, this autograft procedure has major drawbacks including loss of function at the donor site, multiple surgeries and, quite often, it's just not possible to find a suitable nerve to use as a graft. Various synthetic nerve grafts are currently available but none work better than the autograft and can't bridge gaps larger than 4 centimeters.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a technology that has the potential to serve as a better alternative than currently available synthetic nerve grafts. The graft material is compo
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