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Int J Artif Organs. 2007 Jan;30(1):64-74.

Bridging extended nerve defects with an artifcial nerve graft containing Schwann cells pre-seeded on polyglactin filaments.

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Department of Plastic-, Hand- and Reconstructive Surgery, Burn Unit, Hannover Medical School, and Department of Plastic-, Hand- and Reconstructive Surgery, Burn Unit, University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein, Campus L├╝beck, Germany.


A 24 mm long bioartificial nerve graft (BNG) was created to bridge extended peripheral nerve defects of the rat sciatic nerve. In our previous studies, an identical graft had demonstrated good results over nerve gaps of up to 15 mm. The BNG device comprised a collagen-I tube filled with ten Schwann-cell-seeded polyglactin filaments and 10(6) isogenic Schwann cells suspended in Matrigel which were implanted in 27 rats (group I). Schwann-cell-free grafts (27 rats) and nerve autografts (18 rats) served as controls. Functional recovery was followed over a period of six months using walking track analysis. Terminal analyses of graft efficacy included neurophysiology, muscle weight, and histological assessment of the implants and the distal nerve stumps. In 17/27 cases, axonal regeneration into the distal nerve stump could be detected across the BNG, but all animals in group I and II failed to regain motor function of the hindlimb upon completion of the experiment. Axon diameter and axonal density in the graft and distal nerve stump were greater in group I than in group II. Although Schwann cells had a significant positive effect on axonal regeneration, either granuloma formation or the amount of the inserted foreign material may have impaired nerve regeneration by acting as a physical impediment to nerve regeneration or negatively effecting cell function.

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