Electrically Mediated Regeneration and Guidance of Adult Mammalian Spinal Axons Into Polymeric Channels

Neuroscience. 1999;91(1):251-64. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(98)00584-3.


An extracellular electric field has been shown to influence the regeneration of nerve fibers within the adult mammalian spinal cord. However, in these studies, few axons were labeled by local application of intracellular markers relative to the number of axons transected. This has limited an evaluation of the robustness of the response, and the direction of growth of regenerating axons that might be influenced by the orientation of the applied voltage gradient. In this study, a hollow silicone rubber tube (c. 6 mm x 1 mm outside diameter) containing a cathodal (negative) electrode was inserted longitudinally into the dorsal half of the adult guinea-pig spinal cord. The electric field ( approximately 100 microV/mm) was imposed within the damaged spinal cord with an implanted d.c. stimulator for about three weeks. Based on previous studies, this orientation of the electric field would be expected to both initiate axonal regeneration and guide growing axons to, and into, the silicone guidance channel. In experimental animals (n = 20), a robust regeneration of axons into the tube was observed in more than half the cases. These axons were traced from surrounding white and gray matter by anterograde and retrograde labeling using a tetramethylrhodamine-conjugated dextran as an intracellular marker. Control animals (n = 16) received tubes with inactive electrodes. It was rare to find any axons within control guidance channels, since adult mammalian central nervous system axons do not regenerate. This report provides evidence for not only the facilitated regeneration of adult mammalian central axons, but also their guidance, by an imposed electric field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axotomy
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Microelectrodes
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Silicone Elastomers
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology


  • Silicone Elastomers