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J Neurosci. 1985 Sep;5(9):2415-23.

Dissociated neurons regenerate into sciatic but not optic nerve explants in culture irrespective of neurotrophic factors.


Explants of adult or 10-day-old rat sciatic and optic nerves were implanted as "bridges" through a silicon grease seal in a three-compartment chamber culture system, leading from a narrow center chamber to two adjacent side chambers. Dissociated newborn rat sympathetic or sensory neurons were plated into the center chamber and grown in the presence of optimal concentrations of nerve growth factor (NGF). By light microscopy, nerve fibers were seen to grow out of the sciatic nerve explants in the side chambers after 2 to 3 weeks. Electron microscopy showed large numbers of axons present inside the sciatic nerves, irrespective of the presence and number of living Schwann cells. Besides their tendency to fasciculate, axons grew with high preference on Schwann cell membranes and the Schwann cell side of the basal lamina, a situation identical to in vivo regeneration. In contrast to the sciatic nerves, no axons could be found under any condition in the optic nerves. This result points to the existence of extremely poor, non-permissive substrate conditions in the differentiated optic nerves which cannot be overcome by the strong fiber outgrowth-promoting effects of NGF.

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