Nerve injuries occur at an alarming rate, and when the injury is extensive there may be disruption of both motor function and sensation. Surgical intervention to restore the disrupted nerve is often done with the patient's own expendable leg sensory nerves. However, because there's a limited supply of these nerves, in most cases restoration of function must be the treatment priority.

Our Neural Regenerative Research Laboratory focuses on improving the function of processed nerves by altering the nerve and microenvironment with surgical angiogenesis, the addition of cellular elements (stem cells and exosomes), and the use of the immune-suppressing medicine tacrolimus. Our goal is ultimately to create an unlimited supply of off-the-shelf-ready nerve grafts that produce outcomes that are equal to or better than outcomes produced with the patient's own nerve graft.

Our research team has been able to use a novel decellularization process of nerve tissue, a method that preserves the infrastructure and has demonstrated exceptional outcomes in animal models. The addition of surgical angiogenesis, stem cells and exosomes has demonstrated promise in improving outcomes in larger models. Through both in vivo and in vitro studies, we continue to advance nerve regeneration and gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms favorable for nerve regeneration.

The Neural Regenerative Research Lab, formerly the Microvascular Research Lab, was founded by Michael B. Wood, M.D., in the 1990s. Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon Allen T. Bishop, M.D., then headed the lab for 15 years, with a focus on the role of surgical angiogenesis in bone healing. With our clinical practice highly focused on nerve injuries (including brachial plexus and peripheral nerve injuries), a transition to nerve research was made in 2005. Alexander Y. Shin, M.D., has led the lab team since 2017, with innovative research using the clinical needs of nerve surgery to guide the basic science research that our team conducts.

Our lab has had an ongoing collaboration with affiliated universities in the Netherlands since 2010. We currently collaborate with Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen and have previously collaborated with Erasmus University Medical Center (Erasmus MC) in Rotterdam. This synergistic collaboration has provided our lab with the expertise of Dutch medical doctors who are Ph.D. students in peripheral nerve basic science research, while allowing them the opportunity to complete their experiments in our lab as part of their research fellowship.

About Dr. Shin

Dr. Shin, the lab's principal investigator, started at Mayo Clinic in 2001 after serving 13 years as a commander in the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy. Dr. Shin joined the lab in 2005 under Dr. Bishop to start nerve-related basic science research. Dr. Shin is a professor of orthopedic surgery and a professor of neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. He is a classic Mayo Clinic three-shield surgeon, with expertise as a clinician, educator and researcher. Dr. Shin is a world-renowned expert in brachial plexus injuries, vascularized bone grafting and complex reconstructive surgery. He has published more than 470 peer-reviewed articles and is a recipient of National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 funding. Translating the needs of the clinic to basic science research has been his passion and focus during his 20-plus year career.

Read more about Dr. Shin.