The team produced two different types of silk: silk from silkworms for the tubes, and silk from spiders to fill the tubes. (Credit: MedUni Wien/Radtke)

A research team has used silk as a promising material for repairing severed nerves. In their experiments with silk from silkworms and spiders, the scientists also gained new insights into the effects of silks on neuronal healing processes.

The team produced two different types of silk: silk from silkworms was used for the tubes, while silk from spiders was used to fill them. The function of these conduits was investigated in an animal model: as the experiments showed, the severed nerves adapted to the novel silk nerve guidance conduits and grew along the silk threads over the defect distance until the severed nerve endings were successfully reconnected.

For example, the studies confirmed that the tubes made of silkworm silk are equipped with a porous wall to ensure the necessary exchange of nutrients and waste products, which is important for the functionality of the nerves. In addition, information was obtained about the molecular structure of the tubes, which is responsible for their stability and avoidance of kinking and rupture.

The team is working on the next step to explore the potential use of spider silk in human peripheral nerve injuries.

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