It could mean no more movement restrictions while recovering from muscle and tendon injuries.
Researchers have created a "nanofiber yarn" that they say could help repair damaged muscles and tendons, while also allowing a patient to retain use of the injured area.
"When you repair muscle or tendon, you really have to fix their movement for a period of time, by wearing a boot, for example," MIT research Ming Guo told MIT News. "With this nanofiber yarn, the hope is, you won’t have to [be] wearing anything like that."
In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Guo and fellow researchers from MIT and Beihang University detail how they engineered the nanofiber yarn by creating tight coils out of hundreds of thousands of aligned nanofibers made from biocompatible materials.
They then seeded different types of live cells, including muscle cells, along the coils. After stretching the coils to six times their original length, they found that most of the cells survived and continued to grow — the coil shape appeared to "shelter" the cells from dying as a result of the movement, Guo told the MIT blog.
"We may be able to one day embed these structures under the skin, and the [coil] material would eventually be digested, while the new cells stay put," he told MIT News. "The nice thing about this method is, it’s really general, and we can try different materials. This may push the limit of tissue engineering a lot."
READ MORE: "Nanofiber yarn" makes for stretchy, protective artificial tissue [MIT News]
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