Human fat cells have more than one trick up their sleeves! The good new is they could soon be used to repair damaged nerves.
British researchers have actually succeeded in extracting stem cells from fat tissues in rats and forcing them into becoming neurons, our nerves’ cells. Stem cells are immature and un-differentiated cells the body uses to create various types of tissues.
The next step in this great endeavour will be to repeat this achievement with human cells, to eventually create a full replacement nerve. Scientists are hoping this technique can be offered as soon as 2011 to “reconnect” damaged nerves in the human body.
This new technique could potentially help repair damage caused to peripheral nerves during surgeries, such as when surgeons remove large tumours, or caused by accidents. To achieve this, scientists plan to insert new nerve tissue in a biodegradable plastic tube, which could be used to connect the nerves’ severed extremities
For now, the fact remains that there are very few recourses to repair nerves, even though nerves have a limited capacity to “grow back”. Surgeons often use healthy nerves harvested from another part of a patient’s body, but not only is this technique incapable of restoring perfect function, it may also cause further damage.
Although this new technique requires further research before it can be used in humans, it certainly offers hope to those who are living with the grave repercussions of neural lesions.