Nerve gap repair by the use of artificial conduits and cultured cells

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: Peripheral nerve injuries are often associated with loss of nerve tissue and require autologous nerve grafts to provide a physical substrate for axonal growth. This thesis investigates the use of fibrin as both a tubular conduit to guide nerve regeneration and also as a matrix material to suspend various regenerative cell types within/on poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) nerve conduits. Adipose derived stem cells (ASC) are found in abundant quantities. In this thesis the ability of rat ASC to differentiate into Schwann cells was determined and a preliminary study of the neurotrophic potential of human ASC was also investigated.Rat sciatic nerve axotomy was performed proximally in the thigh to create a 10-mm gap between the nerve stumps and the gap was bridged using the various conduits.  At early time points the nerve grafts were harvested and investigated for axonal and Schwann cell markers.  After 16 weeks the regenerative response from sensory and motor neurons was also evaluated following retrograde labelling with Fast Blue fluorescent tracer. Stem cells were treated with a mixture of glial growth factors and after 2 weeks in vitro the expression of Schwann cell markers was analysed by immunocytochemistry and Western blotting.  ASC were cocultured with the NG108-15 neuronal cell line to determine their ability to promote neurite outgrowth.  Human ASC were isolated from the deep and superficial layers of abdominal fat tissue obtained during abdominoplasty procedures.  RT-PCR was used to investigate the expression of neurotrophic factors.Immunohistochemistry showed a superior nerve regeneration distance in the fibrin conduit compared with PHB. The fibrin conduit promoted regeneration of 60% of sensory neurones and 52% of motor neurones when compared with an autograft group at 16 weeks. The total number of myelinated axons in the distal nerve stump in the fibrin-conduit group reached 86% of the graft and the weight of gastrocnemius and soleus muscles recovered to 82% and 89% of the controls, respectively. In vitro studies showed that rat ASC could be differentiated to a Schwann cell phenotype. These treated cells enhanced both the number of NG108-15 cells expressing neurites and neurite length. In the same coculture model system, human superficial fat layer ASC induced significantly enhanced neurite outgrowth when compared with the deep layer fat cells. RT-PCR analysis showed ASC isolated from both layers expressed neurotrophic factors.These results indicate that a tubular fibrin conduit can be used to promote neuronal regeneration following peripheral nerve injury. There was also a beneficial effect of using a fibrin matrix to seed cells within/on PHB conduits which should ultimately lead to improved functional recovery following nerve injury.  There might also be an advantage to use a simple strip of PHB rather than a conventional tube-like structure implying that single fascicle nerve grafting could be advantageous for nerve repair.  The results of in vitro experiments indicate adipose tissue contains a pool of regenerative stem cells which can be differentiated to a Schwann cell phenotype and given that human ASC express a range of neurotrophic factors they are likely to be of clinical benefit for treatment of peripheral nerve injuries.