London : Scientists have demonstrated that hair follicle can be a source of stem cells that may one day be used to repair damaged nerves, reports PTI.

Scientists from Newcastle University have successfully converted stem cells into large quantities of Schwann cells, which are a type of cell used in nerve repair. When peripheral nerves – those outside the brain and spinal column – are damaged, they can be treated using grafts taken from nerves elsewhere in the body.

“Many people sustain peripheral nerve injuries — in the arms, legs, and torso. If it is a small injury they can sew together two stumps of the nerve and it regenerates. If it is a large injury, the gap needs to be bridged,” Professor Maya Sieber-Blum was quoted as saying by ‘The Times’.

“In the current state of the art, you take a piece of one nerve and transplant it to a different nerve. That injures the donor nerve so you perpetuate the injury,” she said.

Along with her colleagues, Sieber-Blum demonstrated that the hair follicle can instead be a source of stem cells that can then be cultured in their millions and converted into a homogenous population of nerve repair cells.

The next step will be to create a scaffolding on which these cells can then grow nerves – to bridge the gap between damaged parts – and see if the technique works in the body.

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