In a rat model, nerve regeneration was evaluated across a 2-cm defect in the median nerve by using a resorbable artificial nerve conduit. The aim of this study was to develop an artificial, biocompatible nerve guide to induce regeneration in the peripheral nervous system.
The authors compared a nerve conduit of trimethylenecarbonate-co-epsilon-caprolactone (TMC/CL) filled with autologous Schwann cells with both an empty hollow conduit and an autologous nerve graft. Animals that did not undergo surgery served as the control group. Nerve regeneration was evaluated with the grasping test, histological analysis of the nerve, muscle weight analysis (flexor digitorum superficialis muscle), and electrophysiological examination. After an observation period of 9 months, regeneration occurred only in animals that had received an autologous graft or a Schwann cell containing nerve conduit. No signs of regeneration were found in animals supplied with the empty conduit.
Results of this study reveal the important role of Schwann cells in the regeneration process across a 2-cm defect in the rat median nerve. Furthermore, Schwann cell-filled nerve conduits induced functional recovery, as demonstrated in the grasping test, that was comparable with that of the autologous graft 9 months after implantation.