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Restorative Gel Could Help Reverse Paralysis

By BiotechDaily International staff writers
Posted on 28 May 2013
A biodegradable implant that delivers a therapeutic gel could help restore healthy nerve function in degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University (Israel) developed the implant, which is a soft, biodegradable tube that serves as a physical bridge to help the nerve ends connect. Lining the inside of the biodegradable tube is a guiding regeneration gel (GRG), a transparent, highly viscous, malleable, and adaptable gel that increases nerve growth and healing, helping the severed nerve ends to rejoin. But the GRG not only aids reconnection and cell preservation, it can also support their survival while being used for therapy and transplantation.

The key to the regeneration process lies in the composition of the gel, with three main components: superoxide dismutase (SOD) antioxidants, which exhibit high anti-inflammatory activities; synthetic laminin-derived peptides, which act as a railway or track for the nerve fibers to grow along; and hyaluronic acid, commonly found in the human fetus, which serves as a buffer against drying, a major danger for most implants. These components allow the nerve to heal the way a fetus does in the womb - quickly and smoothly.

Research to-date has shown that GRG stimulates cell growth, neuronal sprouting, and extracellular matrix (ECM) formation, supporting cells in vitro and in vivo upon implantation. It also supports three dimensional (3D) growth and differentiation of various cell types (embryonic, adult stem cells, and preneuronal cells). The implications for therapeutic applications include peripheral nerves reconstruction, cell therapy, corneal preservation, wound healing, and as a postirradiation tissue cavity filler.

“The implant has already been tested in animal models, and the gel by itself can be used as a stand-alone product, acting as an aid to cell therapy,” said GRG codeveloper Shimon Rochkind, MD. “When grown in the gel, cells show excellent development, as well as intensive fiber growth. This could have implications for the treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's.”

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