Tissue-engineered scaffolds are effective alternatives to autografts for bridging peripheral nerve gaps.
The use of autografts for "bridging" peripheral nerve gaps is limited by lack of suitable donor nerve grafts. Using a tissue-engineering approach, we have designed a three-dimensional scaffold that presents laminin 1 (LN-1) and nerve growth factor (NGF) in vivo. Semipermeable polysulfone tubes were used as carriers to introduce the tissue-engineered scaffolds to a 10-mm sciatic nerve gap in adult rats. Two months after implantation, the gross morphology of the regenerated nerve, the success rate of regeneration, and the total number and density of myelinated axons in the tissue-engineered scaffolds matched that observed in autografts. LN-1- and NGF-containing scaffolds performed comparably to autografts when functional measures that include the relative gastrocnemius muscle weight and the sciatic functional index were quantified. Our results demonstrate that tissue-engineered scaffolds match the performance of autografts in an in vivo model of peripheral nerve regeneration, raising the possibility of the scaffolds being used clinically instead of scarce autografts.
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