Are nerve grafts the only answer for severed nerves? An alternative for nerve cell attachment and growth could involve an electrically conductive plastic called polypyrrole, say researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Dept. of Chemical Engineering and at Children's Hospital of Harvard University. By using cells from rat neurons and from sciatic nerve tissue of chick embryos, the researchers demonstrated that polypyrrole films facilitate nerve cell attachment and extension significantly better than conventional materials. They report that electrical stimulation increased cell growth and that adult rat tissue tolerated implants of polypyrrole with little adverse response.
The MIT team included Prasad Shastri, Christine Schmidt (now at the University of Texas at Austin) and Robert Langer. Joseph Vacanti is the researcher from Children's Hospital.