A revolutionary surgical technology invented by Professor Minghao Zheng, from The University of Western Australia and Perron Institute, is assisting in the delicate process of nerve repair to restore function to paralysed muscles.
Professor Zheng heads the Perron Institute’s Bone and Brain Axis Research group and is Winthrop Professor at UWA’s medical school.
He is a global leader in orthopaedic regenerative medicine, in particular the translation of novel science into clinical practice.
Image: Professor Minghao Zheng.
The nerve repair technology has been licensed by the leading regenerative company, Orthocell and recently gained Australian TGA regulatory approval for use of peripheral nerve reconstruction.
The technology involves joining a damaged nerve with a healthy one taken from elsewhere in the body. The surgeon wraps a collagen-based membrane around the join to create a “healing” chamber.
Clinical trials have been very encouraging, showing that the process is effective in regaining sensation and some hand and arm function over time.
Of 23 patients who have had this procedure, 82.6 per cent (19 of 23) have regained use of muscles controlled by the repaired nerve after 24 months.
Professor Zheng, Orthocell’s Chief Scientific Officer, says the technique is a paradigm shift.
“While restoring movement in the upper body has been the focus in clinical trials, the technology may be used in future in nerve repair for lower body injuries,” he said.
“The collagen wrapping reduces the need for suturing and provides a barrier to protect the aligned ends of the nerves to be conjoined, generating an ideal micro-environment to support regeneration.
“The collagen membrane keeps the body’s natural growth factors within this enclosed space and prevents external tissues from entering. In this way, it facilitates more effective peripheral nerve transfer surgery and reduces healing time.
“The collagen wrap remains intact until the nerve fibres have reconnected with receptors and then gradually degrades naturally.
“It is easy for surgeons to use to improve the lives of patients with complex nerve injuries,” he said.