Friday, 23 May 2014 06:56

Collagen (NeuraGen®) nerve conduits and stem cells for peripheral nerve gap repair

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  • Collagen nerve guides are used clinically for peripheral nerve defects, but their use is generally limited to lesions up to 3 cm. In this study we combined collagen conduits with cells as an alternative strategy to support nerve regeneration over longer gaps. In vitro cell adherence to collagen conduits (NeuraGen® nerve guides) was assessed by scanning electron microscopy. For in vivo experiments, conduits were seeded with either Schwann cells (SC), SC-like differentiated bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (dMSC), SC-like differentiated adipose-derived stem cells (dASC) or left empty (control group), conduits were used to bridge a 1 cm gap in the rat sciatic nerve and after 2-weeks immunohistochemical analysis was performed to assess axonal regeneration and SC infiltration. The regenerative cells showed good adherence to the collagen walls. Primary SC showed significant improvement in distal stump sprouting. No significant differences in proximal regeneration distances were noticed among experimental groups. dMSC and dASC-loaded conduits showed a diffuse sprouting pattern, while SC-loaded showed an enhanced cone pattern and a typical sprouting along the conduits walls, suggesting an increased affinity for the collagen type I fibrillar structure. NeuraGen® guides showed high affinity of regenerative cells and could be used as efficient vehicle for cell delivery. However, surface modifications (e.g. with extracellular matrix molecule peptides) of NeuraGen® guides could be used in future tissue-engineering applications to better exploit the cell potential.

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