Our group is taking a tissue engineering approach to develop a combination medical device that stimulates regeneration of peripheral nerves.
Each year, injuries to peripheral nerves (PN) requiring surgical intervention number in the hundreds of thousands. Patients with uncorrectable nerve injuries face permanent loss of motor control and/or sensation. Although PNs are intrinsically capable of regeneration, they can only do so unaided across small gaps. Autologous nerve grafts generally taken from the patient’s own leg remain the most effective treatment, but is not op-timal for many patients. Our group is taking a tissue engineering approach to develop a combination medical device that stimulates regeneration of peripheral nerves.
Two major elements are necessary to reach this goal. The first is to have a scaffold device that be sutured to the nerve stumps to provide mechanical assistance and protection to the fragile regenerating nerve. The second is to provide molecules that stimulate the damaged cells to not only survive, but to regenerate across the injury all the way to their muscle or sensory targets.
This work is taking place within a partnership of several laboratories at Rutgers, each with their own spe-cialty that can contribute to the overall success of the project. The Kohn group is using their unique approach to formulate polymers and advanced fabrication techniques to achieve scaffold devices that are extremely flexible and will be for the first time capable of protecting regenerating nerves in areas of high flexation, such as the elbows or finger joints.