WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers said keratin, a protein found in human hair, may speed up regeneration of nerve tissue and improve nerve function.
The report, published in the journal, Biomaterials, said the finding could lead to new treatments for nerves that are cut or crushed by trauma.
"We found that the nerve repair happened more quickly and consistently, and that functional recovery was higher," Mark Van Dyke of Wake Forest University School of Medicine said Thursday in a release.
The keratin, which is believed to contain molecules that regulate cell behavior, was used inside a nerve guidance conduit that was placed between the cut ends so that nerve fibers can grow through it and back into the muscle, the report said.
While other natural materials have been used in the conduits, Van Dyke's team was the first to use keratin.
Animal studies showed 100 percent of mice treated with the keratin conduits showed visible nerve regeneration after six weeks, compared to only 50 percent who got the empty conduit. The scientists also found the speed of nerve impulses and the level of signal that got through to the nerve was best in the keratin group.