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Tissue Eng. 2003 Apr;9(2):209-18.

Addition of fibronectin to alginate matrix improves peripheral nerve regeneration in tissue-engineered conduits.

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Blond McIndoe Centre, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Royal Free Campus, London, United Kingdom.


Schwann cell (SC) transplantation has been proposed to encourage peripheral nerve regeneration, but an optimal SC-carrying matrix would be needed. The aim of this study was to characterize how the addition of fibronectin to alginate would affect the outcome of nerve regeneration promoted by Schwann cells embedded in this matrix. Genetically labeled rat SCs were obtained by lacZ gene transduction. SCs were suspended in alginate hydrogel matrix with/without addition of liquid fibronectin, and their viability and growth in the different types of matrices were assessed in vitro by AlamarBlue assay. In vivo assessment of SC transplantation in the matrix was carried out with poly-3-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) conduits to bridge a sciatic nerve gap. The grafted conduits were harvested at 2, 3, and 6 weeks and assessed for the presence of labeled SCs in relation to regrowing axons. The amount and rate of axonal regeneration were assessed by quantitative immunohistochemistry. Addition of fibronectin to alginate hydrogel improved SC viability and growth profile in vitro. X-Gal staining confirmed that SCs transplanted in PHB conduits were viable throughout the time course, and that the labeled SCs were clearly associated with regenerating axons. The regeneration rate was enhanced when liquid fibronectin was added to the alginate matrix. Furthermore, the presence of SCs also enhanced regeneration and there was an additive effect when both SCs and fibronectin were combined with alginate. In conclusion, the addition of fibronectin to alginate hydrogel matrix contributed to improve nerve regeneration, supporting SC viability and augmenting their effect on axonal growth when transplanted in a bioengineered nerve conduit.

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