Although peripheral nerve injury is a common consequence of trauma or surgery, there are insufficient means for repair. In particular, there is a critical need for improved methods to facilitate regeneration of axons across major nerve lesions. Here, we engineered transplantable living nervous tissue constructs to provide a labeled pathway to guide host axonal regeneration. These constructs consisted of stretch-grown, longitudinally aligned living axonal tracts inserted into poly(glycolic acid) tubes. The constructs (allogenic) were transplanted to bridge an excised segment of sciatic nerve in the rat, and histological analyses were performed at 6 and 16 weeks posttransplantation to determine graft survival, integration, and host regeneration. At both time points, the transplanted constructs were found to have maintained their pretransplant geometry, with surviving clusters of graft neuronal somata at the extremities of the constructs spanned by tracts of axons. Throughout the transplanted region, there was an intertwining plexus of host and graft axons, suggesting that the transplanted axons mediated host axonal regeneration across the lesion. By 16 weeks posttransplant, extensive myelination of axons was observed throughout the transplant region. Further, graft neurons had extended axons beyond the margins of the transplanted region, penetrating into the host nerve. Notably, this survival and integration of the allogenic constructs occurred in the absence of immunosuppression therapy. These findings demonstrate the promise of living tissue-engineered axonal constructs to bridge major nerve lesions and promote host regeneration, potentially by providing axon-mediated axonal outgrowth and guidance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering