Ann Conkle
Feb 21, 2012

Regenerating damaged nerves

A surprising set of cells may hold potential for aiding nerve transplants in patients who have severe nerve damage -- the type of wound often caused by gunshots, stabbings, car accidents, or action on the battlefield. For a damaged nerve to repair itself, the two disconnected but healthy portions of the nerve must somehow find each other through a maze of tissue and connect together. For some nerve injuries, the gap is simply too large, and the nerve won’t grow back without intervention. In a study in rats, Jason Huang and colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center  found that dorsal root ganglion neurons, or DRG cells, help create thick, healthy nerves, without provoking unwanted attention from the immune system. The finding is one step toward better treatment for the more than 350,000 patients each year in the United States who have serious injuries to their peripheral nerves. Huang’s laboratory is one of a handful developing new technologies to treat such wounds.