Feb 13, 2012 5:08 AM GMT
Seems pretty promising though it won't help those already with nerve damage.
When a nerve is severed through injury, surgeons must suture the two stumps together as quickly as possible. Yet even under controlled lab conditions, Bittner's tests in rats suggest that these conventional sutures restore little more than 30 per cent of previous mobility, even three months after surgery. His new technique helps to restore twice that, in as little as two weeks. The secret, he says, is to prevent the body lending a helping hand.
Put bluntly, the body botches nerve repair. It forms seals over the two severed stumps of a broken nerve within an hour, says Bittner, but it doesn't reconnect them first. Even if surgeons then suture the two ends, the seals will prevent nerve signals from passing easily across the join (see "Bound together").
Bittner realised that we need a system that blocks the body's repair process. The way to do that, he discovered, is to immediately flush the injury site with a calcium-free salty solution that also contains methylene blue, a chemical that blocks oxidation reactions. Calcium and oxidation drive the formation of tiny spheres called vesicles, which in turn seal the nerve stumps.