• Bioengineering in action

    Bioengineering in action


Every year thousands of people sustain a peripheral nerve injury in the Western world. In the UK, 9,000 nerve injuries cases are operated on each year. In Europe, an estimated 300,000 cases are treated annually. The most common victims are young people receiving work-related or road accident injuries.

The current clinical treatment of nerve injury is to perform microsurgical repair of the nerve ends with sutures. However, in the presence of a gap between the severed ends of the nerve, a nerve graft is performed. This involves retrieving a donor nerve from the patient, usually from the leg, which results in additional surgery, a scar at the site of the donor nerve and a loss of sensation in the area that the donor nerve supplied.

Although microsurgical techniques have been refined over several years, the outcomes for patients undergoing nerve repair have not improved at the same rate. There are functional implications for the patient with incomplete movement or sensation to an arm or a hand. Many patients do not return to work and there may be resulting psychosocial problems which can add a considerable socioeconomic cost to these significant injuries.

This need for an alternative approach has led to the development of our bioengineered nerve grafts, with a focus on creating an artificial nerve to guide and improve nerve regeneration.

Dr Adam Reid, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Manchester