Personalised medicine to repair peripheral nerve injuries

Jorge Fernando Jordão Coelho


    Jorge Fernando Jordão Coelho


    Instituto Pedro Nunes - Associação para a Inovação e Desenvolvimento em Ciência e Tecnologia, Portugal


    Peripheral nerves send messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. They also collect sensory information for the central nervous system. For example, they move the muscles for walking or for feeling that the hands are cold. In Europe, around 300,000 people every year suffer some kind of injury that damages the peripheral nerves, and this has a huge impact on their quality of life as well as a high socio-economic cost. In the United States alone, such injuries are estimated to cost around 7 billion dollars per year.

    One of the most promising treatments for repairing damaged nerves is the use of nerve guidance conduits (NGCs), a type of artificial nerve graft that enables the reconnection of damaged nerve segments and supports and accelerates the self-regeneration of peripheral nerves. However, the NGCs developed to date have limitations as regards degradability, biocompatibility and flexibility, related to their polymers and manufacturing process.

    To tackle this challenge, the researchers use another type of polymer, dextran, enhancing biodegradability and biocompatibility. They also use PCL for its mechanical properties, as it allows the nerves to regenerate properly. They have already successfully tested this new polymer in mouse models with sciatic nerve damage, obtaining promising results. In this project, they aim to develop 3D printing technology for NGCs based on dextran and PCL to fabricate nerves tailored to each individual patient. Another step towards personalised medicine.