Georgiou, M.; East, E.; Loughlin, A. J.; Golding, J. P. and Phillips, J. B.
A tissue engineered collagen conduit containing columns of aligned Schwann cells supports neuronal regeneration in vitro.
In: 2011 PNS Biennial Meeting of the Peripheral Nerve Society, 25-29 June 2011, Potomac, Maryland, US.
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Tissue-engineered bridging devices for surgical implantation into peripheral nerve injury sites could provide an attractive alternative to the nerve autograft. Here we report the development of an aligned cellular conduit which mimics key cellular and extracellular features of the autograft endoneurium.
Previous work from our group has shown that aligned Schwann cells within a tethered collagen gel can promote and guide neuron regeneration in vitro and in vivo. Combining this cellular alignment with plastic compression to stabilise collagen gels produces a robust cellular biomaterial with the potential to form nerve repair conduits to enhance neuronal growth and provide a directional cue to regenerating neurons.
Experiments using cell death assays, immunostaining and confocal microscopy show that Schwann cells in collagen gels survive plastic compression and also maintain their alignment following the compression process to form an aligned cellular collagen biomaterial. We have also demonstrated that dissociated DRG neurons growing on the surface of these aligned cellular sheets extend aligned neurites that appear guided by the orientation of the aligned Schwann cells. Rolling the flat sheets of aligned Schwann cells into columns provides a means to engineer fibers of aligned cells embedded within a robust collagen extracellular matrix. These engineered columns of aligned Schwann cells can then be packed together to form the endoneurium of a peripheral nerve repair device. In vitro testing of the engineered endoneurium within a silicone outer tube shows that neuronal growth is supported by this device, which has the potential to form an implantable conduit for peripheral nerve repair.
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