Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Protein In Human Hair Shows Promise For Regenerating Nerves

Date:
January 12, 2008
Source:
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Summary:
A protein found in human hair shows promise for promoting the regeneration of nerve tissue and could lead to a new treatment option when nerves are cut or crushed from trauma.

A protein found in human hair shows promise for promoting the regeneration of nerve tissue and could lead to a new treatment option when nerves are cut or crushed from trauma.

Related Articles


In the journal Biomaterials, scientists from Wake Forest University School of Medicine reported that in animal studies the protein keratin was able to speed up nerve regeneration and improve nerve function compared to current treatment options.

"We found that the nerve repair happened more quickly and consistently, and that functional recovery was higher," said Mark Van Dyke, Ph.D., senior author and an assistant professor of regenerative medicine. "The fact that we were able to accomplish this with gels made from keratin is pretty remarkable."

Current treatments for repairing damaged nerves include microsurgery to sew two ends of the nerve together, using a nerve from another part of the body to replace a damaged section, or placing an empty tube between the cut ends so that nerve fibers can grow through it and back into the muscle.

Grafting a nerve from another part of the body is usually the most effective option, but it creates another injury site and isn't possible in all patients. The tubes, known as nerve guidance conduits, cannot be used in gaps longer than three or four centimeters. In addition, nerve regeneration with this method is not always successful. For example, after about age 17, nerves don't regenerate as well.

Laboratory scientists have tried placing natural materials, such as collagen, into the conduits to promote nerve regeneration. Van Dyke's team was the first to use keratin, which is believed to contain molecules that regulate cell behavior.

The scientists collected human hair from a local barber shop and chemically processed it to remove the keratin. They purified the keratin protein and used it to form gels that were then used to fill the nerve guidance conduits. They studied how keratin affects the activity of Schwann cells, which play a vital role in nerve regeneration. These cells produce signals that tell nerve cells to begin regenerating and "remodel" the blood clot that has formed so that nerve cells can grow across it.

"By using keratin to activate these cells, we're trying to tap into the natural healing cascade," said Van Dyke. "We believe that keratin helps amp up Schwann cell activity and give the nerve regeneration process a head start."

The laboratory studies showed that keratin activated Schwann cells and increased their proliferation and migration. Next, the scientists used a keratin-filled tube to attempt to repair a 4 millimeter nerve gap in mice -- a fairly significant gap considering the size of the animal.

The results from these animals were compared with animals treated with an empty nerve guidance conduit and with animals treated with a nerve graft.

After six weeks, 100 percent of the animals in the keratin and nerve graft groups showed visible nerve regeneration across the gap, compared to only 50 percent who got the empty conduit. The speed of repair was best in the keratin group.

The scientists then tested the function of the regenerated nerve. The speed of nerve impulses was best in the keratin group. The amount of signal that got through the nerve was better in the keratin group than in the empty tube group. The study was recently highlighted in the journal Science.

"The results suggest that a conduit filler derived from hair keratins can promote an outcome comparable to a grafted nerve," said Van Dyke.

In the study, the nerve function did not translate into recovery of muscle function, but the scientists suspect they may have tested too early, before the nerve had time to regenerate to the muscle. It is known that muscle function recovery lags behind nerve recovery. Future studies will focus on regeneration across larger gaps and will test whether nerve regeneration results in a return of muscle function.

The research was conducted by the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) and the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and was funded internally. Additional studies will be funded by the Errett Fisher Foundation.

In addition to Van Dyke, members of the research team and co-authors on the paper include graduate student Paulina Sierpinski, B.S., and orthopaedic resident Jeffrey Garrett, M.D., (co-first authors), orthopaedic resident Jianjun Ma, M.D., graduate student and orthopaedic resident Peter Apel, M.D., graduate student David Klorig, B.S., orthopaedic surgery professor Thomas Smith, Ph.D., orthopaedic surgery chair L. Andew Koman, M.D., and WFIRM director Anthony Atala, M.D.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Protein In Human Hair Shows Promise For Regenerating Nerves." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080110102341.htm>.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. (2008, January 12). Protein In Human Hair Shows Promise For Regenerating Nerves. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080110102341.htm
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Protein In Human Hair Shows Promise For Regenerating Nerves." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080110102341.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the risk of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the U.S. is essentially zero Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum. He also said an Ebola vaccine will be tested in West Africa in the next few months. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A nurse who vowed to defy Maine's voluntary quarantine for health care workers who treated Ebola patients followed through on her promise Thursday, leaving her home for an hour-long bike ride. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot-Infused Edibles Raise Concerns in Colorado

Pot-Infused Edibles Raise Concerns in Colorado

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) Colorado may have legalized marijuana for recreational use, but the debate around the decision still continues, with a recent - failed - attempt to ban cannabis-infused edibles. Duration: 01:53 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
British Navy Ship Arrives in Sierra Leone With Ebola Aid

British Navy Ship Arrives in Sierra Leone With Ebola Aid

AFP (Oct. 30, 2014) The British ship RFA ARGUS arrived in Sierra Leone to deliver supplies and equipment to help the fight against Ebola. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins