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Exp Neurol. 1998 Dec;154(2):315-29.

Collagen-GAG substrate enhances the quality of nerve regeneration through collagen tubes up to level of autograft.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02139, USA.


Peripheral nerve regeneration was studied across a tubulated 10-mm gap in the rat sciatic nerve using histomorphometry and electrophysiological measurements of A-fiber, B-fiber, and C-fiber peaks of the evoked action potentials. Tubes fabricated from large-pore collagen (max. pore diameter, 22 nm), small-pore collagen (max. pore diameter, 4 nm), and silicone were implanted either saline-filled or filled with a highly porous, collagen-glycosaminoglycan (CG) matrix. The CG matrix was deliberately synthesized, based on a previous optimization study, to degrade with a half-life of about 6 weeks and to have a very high specific surface through a combination of high pore volume fraction (0.95) and relatively small average pore diameter (35 microm). Nerves regenerated through tubes fabricated from large-pore collagen and filled with the CG matrix had significantly more large-diameter axons, more total axons, and significantly higher A-fiber conduction velocities than any other tubulated group; and, although lower than normal, their histomorphometric and electrophysiological properties were statistically indistinguishable from those of the autograft control. Although the total number of myelinated axons in nerves regenerated by tubulation had reached a plateau by 30 weeks, the number of axons with diameter larger than 6 microm, which have been uniquely associated with the A-fiber peak of the action potential, continued to increase at substantial rates through the completion of the study (60 weeks). The kinetic data strongly suggest that a nerve trunk maturation process, not previously reported in studies of the tubulated 10-mm gap in the rat sciatic nerve, and consisting in increase of axonal tissue area with decrease in total tissue area, continues beyond 60 weeks after injury, resulting in a nerve trunk which increasingly approaches the structure of the normal control.

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