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Exp Neurol. 1991 Dec;114(3):275-85.

The role of Schwann cells in the regeneration of peripheral nerve axons through muscle basal lamina grafts.

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Department of Anatomy, Cambridge, England.


Evacuated muscle is a possible substitute for nerve autografts in the repair of damaged peripheral nerves. Previous experiments have shown that killed or evacuated muscle grafts are as effective as nerve autografts for bridging gaps of up to 4 cm between proximal and distal nerve stumps. Evacuated muscle grafts are made of extracellular matrix components, which are good substrates for axon growth in vitro. However, experiments in vivo have generally demonstrated that live Schwann cells are essential for successful axon regeneration. In the present experiments we have used immunohistochemical techniques with anti-S100 and anti-neurofilament antibodies to visualize axon growth and Schwann cell migration into muscle grafts over the first 10 days following grafting. We only saw axons growing into grafts accompanied by Schwann cells, and most though not all Schwann cells were associated with axons. Schwann cell migration from the proximal stump in association with axons was much faster and more extensive than from the distal stump. We examined muscle grafts over the first 20 days after grafting by electron microscopy. Regenerating axons were always associated with Schwann cells, which were mostly in the basal lamina-lined tubes left by the evacuated myofibrils. A comparison between evacuated muscle grafts and grafts in which the muscle had been killed but not evacuated revealed that 7 days after grafting there were more than twice as many regenerated axons in and distal to the evacuated grafts, but that by 20 days the numbers of axons were similar in the two groups.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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