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Microsurgery. 1998;18(7):397-405.

Schwann cells, neurotrophic factors, and peripheral nerve regeneration.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedic and Accident Surgery, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.


The peripheral nervous system retains a considerable capacity for regeneration. However, functional recovery rarely returns to the preinjury level no matter how accurate the nerve repair is, and the more proximal the injury the worse the recovery. Among a variety of approaches being used to enhance peripheral nerve regeneration are the manipulation of Schwann cells and the use of neurotrophic factors. Such factors include, first, nerve growth factor (NGF) and the other recently identified members of the neurotrophin family, namely, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), neurotrophin-4/5 (NT-4/5); second, the neurokines ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF); and third, the transforming growth factors (TGFs)-beta and their distant relative, glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). In this review article we focus on the roles in peripheral nerve regeneration of Schwann cells and of the neurotrophin family, CNTF and GDNF, and the relationship between these. Finally, we discuss what remains to be understood about the possible clinical use of neurotrophic factors.

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