Though it is possible for severed nerve ends to grow back together, the process is long and the time it takes often results in life-altering muscle atrophy. Some researchers in China have come up with a first-ever solution to this, eschewing typical stitching and grafting to re-connect nerve ends using liquid metal.
Tsinghua University’s Jing Liu and colleagues revealed a method for connecting nerve ends using liquid metal, which allows for the conduction of electrical signals to pass through the repair point and nerve, trumping currently used — and less effective — methods.
The metal in question is the alloy gallium-indium-selenium, a (believed to be) benign metal that is liquid at body temperature. With it, in the case of this experiment, the researchers re-connected the severed sciatic nerves in bullfrogs — testing pulse transmission through the re-connected nerve, which was said to be near that of an intact nerve.
The liquid metal’s purpose, then, would be to allow for nerve signals to pass through the severed nerve as it slowly regrows and stitches back together, preventing muscle wasting while waiting. When the nerve has finished healing, the metal can then be removed from the body using a small syringe.
SOURCE: MIT Technology Review