Peripheral nerve regeneration using a microporous polylactic acid asymmetric conduit in a rabbit long-gap sciatic nerve transection model
The performance of an asymmetric conduit made of microporous polylactic acid (PLA) in promoting the long-term peripheral nerve regeneration across a 20-mm-long sciatic nerve gap was evaluated by a rabbit sciatic nerve transection model. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was employed to monitor the nerve regeneration process. The extents of nerve regeneration and conduit degradation were quantified by image analysis. Functional and histological analyses were followed to assess nerve reinnervation. MR images showed that the transected nerve was connected at about 4 months. The diameter of the regenerated nerve continued to increase while the conduit was gradually degraded. The conduit was completely degraded in 18 months. The degradation kinetics in vivo was estimated based on MR images. The functional recovery after 18 months was ∼82% based on electrophysiology. The extension range of the operated limb was slowly recuperated to ∼81% at 18 months. Histology showed that nerve bundles were self-assembled after 16–18 months, but the morphologies were still different from those of normal sciatic nerve. This was the first work on the long-term evaluation of peripheral nerve regeneration in a rabbit model, and the first to report the use of MRI to obtain the real-time images of regenerated nerve in a biomaterial conduit as well as to define the degradation rate of the conduit in vivo. The platform established in this study serves to evaluate the regeneration of larger-diameter (>3-mm) nerve across a long-gap bridged by a conduit.
Journal: Biomaterials - Volume 32, Issue 15, May 2011, Pages 3764–3775