Friday, 23 May 2014 06:58

Nerve Guidance Conduits Based on Double-Layered Scaffolds of Electrospun Nanofibers for Repairing the Peripheral Nervous System

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Compared to the nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) constructed from a single layer of aligned nanofibers, bilayer NGCs with random and aligned nanofibers in the outer and inner layers are more robust and tear-resistant during surgical procedures thanks to an isotropic mechanical property provided by the random nanofibers. However, it remains unclear whether the random nanofibers will interfere with the aligned nanofibers to alter the extension pattern of the neurites and impede regeneration. To answer this question, we seeded dorsal root ganglia (DRG) on a double-layered scaffold, with aligned and random nanofibers on the top and bottom layers, respectively, and evaluated the outgrowth of neurites. The random nanofibers in the bottom layer exerted a negative impact on the extension of neurites projecting from the DRG, giving neurites a less ordered structure compared to those cultured on a single layer of aligned nanofibers. The negative impact of the random nanofibers could be effectively mitigated by preseeding the double-layered scaffold with Schwann cells. DRG cultured on top of such a scaffold exhibited a neurite outgrowth pattern similar to that for DRG cultured on a single layer of aligned nanofibers. We further fabricated bilayer NGCs from the double-layered scaffolds and tested their ability to facilitate nerve regeneration in a rat sciatic nerve injury model. Both histomorphometric analysis and functional characterization demonstrated that bilayer NGCs with an inner surface that was preseeded with Schwann cells could reach 54%, 64.2%, and 74.9% of the performance of isografts in terms of nerve fiber number, maximum isometric tetanic force, and mass of the extensor digitorum longus muscle, respectively. It can be concluded that the bilayer NGCs hold great potential in facilitating motor axon regeneration and functional motor recovery.

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