Thursday, 25 September 2014 09:40

Functional improvement following implantation of a microstructured, type-I collagen scaffold into experimental injuries of the adult rat spinal cord

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  • The formation of cystic cavitation following severe spinal cord injury (SCI) constitutes one of the major barriers to successful axonal regeneration and tissue repair. The development of bioengineered scaffolds that assist in the bridging of such lesion-induced gaps may contribute to the formulation of combination strategies aimed at promoting functional tissue repair. Our previous in vitro investigations have demonstrated the directed axon regeneration and glial migration supporting properties of microstructured collagen scaffold that had been engineered to possess mechanical properties similar to those of spinal cord tissues. Here, the effect of implanting the longitudinally orientated scaffold into unilateral resection injuries (2 mm long) of the mid-cervical lateral funiculus of adult rats has been investigated using behavioural and correlative morphological techniques. The resection injuries caused an immediate and long lasting (up to 12 weeks post injury) deficit of food pellet retrieval by the ipsilateral forepaw. Implantation of the orientated collagen scaffold promoted a significant improvement in pellet retrieval by the ipsilateral forepaw at 6 weeks which continued to improve up to 12 weeks post injury. In contrast, implantation of a non-orientated gelatine scaffold did not result in significant functional improvement. Surprisingly, the improved motor performance was not correlated with the regeneration of lesioned axons through the implanted scaffold. This observation supports the notion that biomaterials may support functional recovery by mechanisms other than simple bridging of the lesion site, such as the local sprouting of injured, or even non-injured fibres.

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