Functional Reconnection of Severed Mammalian Spinal Cord Axons With Polyethylene Glycol

J Neurotrauma. 1999 Aug;16(8):727-38. doi: 10.1089/neu.1999.16.727.


We describe a technique using the water-soluble polymer polyethylene glycol (PEG) to reconnect the two segments of completely transected mammalian spinal axons within minutes. This was accomplished by fusing completely severed strips of isolated guinea pig thoracic white matter maintained in vitro in a double sucrose gap recording chamber. The faces of the severed segments were pressed together, and PEG (MW 1,400-3,500 d; approximately 50% by weight in distilled water) was applied directly to this region through a micropipette and removed by aspiration within 2 min. Successful fusion was documented by the immediate restored conduction of compound action potentials through the original transection and by the variable numbers of fused axons in which anatomical continuity was shown to be restored by high-resolution light microscopy and by the diffusion of intracellular fluorescent dyes through fused axons. These data support the conclusion that some severed and subsequently PEG-fused spinal axons both demonstrate restored anatomical continuity and also are physiologically competent to conduct action potentials. This work adds to our previous demonstration that PEG application can immediately repair severely crushed, rather than cut, spinal cord white matter, and may lead to novel treatments for acute trauma to the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Axotomy*
  • Dextrans
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Polyethylene Glycols / therapeutic use*
  • Rhodamines
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*


  • Dextrans
  • Fluoro-Ruby
  • Rhodamines
  • Polyethylene Glycols