Thin-film enhanced nerve guidance channels for peripheral nerve repair.
It has been demonstrated that nerve guidance channels containing stacked thin-films of aligned poly(acrylonitrile-co-methylacrylate) fibers support peripheral nerve regeneration across critical sized nerve gaps, without the aid of exogenous cells or proteins. Here, we explore the ability of tubular channels minimally supplemented with aligned nanofiber-based thin-films to promote endogenous nerve repair. We describe a technique for fabricating guidance channels in which individual thin-films are fixed into place within the lumen of a polysulfone tube. Because each thin-film is <10 microm thick, this technique allows fine control over the positioning of aligned scaffolding substrate. We evaluated nerve regeneration through a 1-film guidance channel--containing a single continuous thin-film of aligned fibers--in comparison to a 3-film channel that provided two additional thin-film tracks. Thirty rats were implanted with one of the two channel types, and regeneration across a 14 mm tibial nerve gap was evaluated after 6 weeks and 13 weeks, using a range of morphological and functional measures. Both the 1-film and the 3-film channels supported regeneration across the nerve gap resulting in functional muscular reinnervation. Each channel type characteristically influenced the morphology of the regeneration cable. Interestingly, the 1-film channels supported enhanced regeneration compared to the 3-film channels in terms of regenerated axon profile counts and measures of nerve conduction velocity. These results suggest that minimal levels of appropriately positioned topographical cues significantly enhance guidance channel function by modulating endogenous repair mechanisms, resulting in effective bridging of critically sized peripheral nerve gaps.
Clements, IP; Kim, Y-T; English, AW; Lu, X; Chung, A; Bellamkonda, RV
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