Dislocating a shoulder on the ski slopes, slicing a hand in a construction accident or incurring carpal tunnel syndrome from working on a computer keyboard all day are a few of the injuries that result in nerve damage. Pharmacology professor Dr. Tessa Gordon and her colleagues at the UofA and Johns Hopkins Medical School may well be on their way to increasing the speed and accuracy of nerve regeneration caused by those injuries.
"If you have a nerve injury, the expectation is that nerves can grow, but with increased time and distance, the chances deteriorate," says Gordon, an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research senior scientist. "We can enhance the odds by speeding up growth. Stimulation also helps the nerves to grow in the right pathways."
Researchers have learned that nerve regeneration in peripheral regions is possible, but functional recovery is often poor despite advances in microsurgical technique. As well, regeneration often means nerves are not always surgically reconnected to the appropriate pathways, which lessens the chances of recovery.
Through one hour of electrical stimulation on rats, Gordon received the same results in two to three weeks that are achieved in eight to 10 weeks without stimulation.
Gordon and her team now hope to test the research on people with nerve damage.
The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
The UofA in Edmonton, Alberta is one of Canada's premier teaching and research universities serving more than 30,000 students with 6,000 faculty and staff. It continues to lead the country with the most 3M Teaching Fellows, Canada's only national award recognizing teaching excellence.