Nerve prosthesis developed in Umeå

The first clinical study ever with a new type of nerve prosthesis has been launched at Northern Sweden University Hospital. It is being carried out by a research team from Umeå University under the leadership of Professors Jan-Olof Kellerth and Mikael Wiberg.

The team, at the Department of Integrative Medical Biology and the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Sciences, were recently granted SEK 1 million from the Kempe Foundations to purchase advanced neuro-anatomical microscopes and image-analysis equipment for use in the project.

The goal is to develop clinically applicable nerve prostheses that can help restore the capacity to feel with and to move severed fingers that have been operated back in place. The prostheses consist, on the one hand, of cultivated cell lines that are implanted to replace dead or lost nerve tissue and, on the other hand, bridges of biosynthetic material to span across defects in nerve tissue.

The combination of biosynthetic bridge and cell transplants is designed to create conditions for the repair of damaged nerve paths in the spine and peripheral nerves. For this reason, different types of neuroglia cells and stem cells are being compared to determine their impact on the survival and new growth of nerve cells after an injury. Other studies are being devoted to elaborating the material characteristics of the biosynthetic nerve prosthesis and to optimize the consistency of the necessary tissue molecules and cell components. A dedicated cell cultivation laboratory for transplants for patients with damaged nerves is under construction at the Northern Sweden University Hospital.

The research project dovetails competencies in experimental basic research and clinical medical care. The studies are being pursued in collaboration with scientists in England as well as at Swedish and foreign biotechnology companies with expertise in biosynthetic materials and nerve-growth stimulating peptides. The research project is supported by EU funding, among other sources, and aims in a later phase, on the one hand, to develop cutting-edge international medical care at Northern Sweden University Hospital regarding hand and nerve injuries as well as spinal damage and, on the other hand, to lead to spin-off companies to stimulate local business.

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