Development of biosynthetic conduits for peripheral nerve repair

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå University

Abstract: Peripheral nerve injuries are often associated with significant loss of nervous tissue leading to poor restoration of function following repair of injured nerves. Although the injury gap could be bridged by autologous nerve graft, the limited access to donor material and additional morbidity such as loss of sensation and scarring have prompted a search for biosynthetic nerve transplants.The present thesis investigates the effects of a synthetic matrix BD™ PuraMatrix™ peptide (BD)hydrogel, alginate/fibronectin gel and fibrin glue combined with cultured rat Schwann cells or human bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) on neuronal regeneration and muscle recovery after peripheral nerve injury in adult rats.In a sciatic nerve injury model, after 3 weeks postoperatively, the regenerating axons grew significantly longer distances within the conduits filled with BD hydrogel if compared with the alginate/fibronectin gel. The addition of rat Schwann cells to the BD hydrogel drastically increased regeneration distance with axons crossing the injury gap and entering into the distal nerve stump. However, at 16 weeks the number of regenerating spinal motoneurons was decreased to 49% and 31% in the BD hydrogel and alginate/fibronectin groups respectively. The recovery of the gastrocnemius muscle was also inferior in both experimental groups if compared with the nerve graft. The addition of the cultured Schwann cells did not further improve the regeneration of motoneurons and muscle recovery.The growth-promoting effects of the tubular conduits prepared from fibrin glue were also studied following repair of short and long peripheral nerve gaps. Retrograde neuronal labeling demonstrated that fibrin glue conduit promoted regeneration of 60% of injured sensory neurons and 52% of motoneurons when compared with the autologous nerve graft. The total number of myelinated axons in the distal nerve stump in the fibrin conduit group reached 86% of the nerve graft control and the weight of gastrocnemius and soleus muscles recovered to 82% and 89%, respectively. When a fibrin conduit was used to bridge a 20 mm sciatic nerve gap, the weight of gastrocnemius muscle reached only 43% of the nerve graft control. The morphology of the muscle showed a more atrophic appearance and the mean area and diameter of fast type fibres were significantly worse than those of the corresponding 10 mm gap group. In contrast, both gap sizes treated with nerve graft showed similar fiber size.The combination of fibrin conduit with human MSC and daily injections of cyclosporine A enhanced the distance of regeneration by four fold and the area occupied by regenerating axons by three fold at 3 weeks after nerve injury and repair. In addition, the treatment also significantly reduced the ED1 macrophage reaction. At 12 weeks after nerve injury the treatment with cyclosporine A alone or cyclosporine A combined with hMSC induced recovery of the muscle weight and the size of fast type fibres to the control levels of the nerve graft group.In summary, these results show that a BD hydrogel supplemented with rat Schwann cells can support the initial phase of neuronal regeneration across the conduit. The data also demonstrate an advantage of tubular fibrin conduits combined with human MSC to promote axonal regeneration and muscle recovery after peripheral nerve injury.