A new procedure could potentially repair severed nerves and enable patients to recover from nerve damage in days or weeks, opposed to months or years.
Researchers at the University of Texas used a cellular mechanism similar to that used to repair damage to nerve axons and were able to mend nerves in minutes.
This allows the behaviour that the nerves control to be "partially restored within days and often largely restored within two to four weeks," Professor George Bittner, leader of the study, explained.
"If further developed in clinical trials this approach would be a great advance on current procedures that usually imperfectly restore lost function within months at best."
Researchers made the discovery when analysing the mechanisms animal cells use to repair damage to membranes, particularly in invertebrates.
The success of the study lies with the revelation that axons of invertebrates when severed from the body do not degenerate within days as in mammals.
Instead they can survive for months or years, often reconnecting with the distal nerve axon to restore normal nerve behaviour much quicker than in mammals.
The discovery could potentially help stroke patients who experience nerve damage.
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