This study evaluates the ability of Schwann cells (SCs) transplanted into a nerve guide to improve regeneration and reinnervation after sciatic nerve resection and repair, leaving a 6-mm gap, in the mouse. SCs were isolated from predegenerated adult sciatic nerves and expanded in culture using a chemically defined medium. Syngeneic, isogeneic, and autologous SCs were suspended in Matrigel and seeded in resorbable, permeable poly(l-lactide-co-epsilon-caprolactone) guides at 150,000 cells/tube. Guides containing SCs were compared to guides filled with Matrigel alone and with peroneal nerve autografts. Functional reinnervation was assessed by noninvasive methods to determine recovery of sweating, nociceptive, sensory, and motor functions in the hindpaw during 4 months postoperation. Morphological analysis of the regenerated nerves was performed at the end of follow-up. The group with an autograft achieved faster and higher levels of reinnervation and higher number of regenerated myelinated fibers than groups repaired by tubulization. The immunogenicity of transplanted SCs influenced the outcome of nerve regeneration. Transplants of autologous SCs resulted in slightly lower levels of reinnervation than autografts, but higher recovery and number of regenerated fibers reaching the distal nerve than transplants of isologous and syngeneic SCs, although most of the differences were not statistically significant. Syngeneic SCs did not improve regeneration with respect to acellular guides. Prelabeled transplanted SCs were found to survive into the guide 1-3 months after implantation, to a larger number when they were autologous than syngeneic. Cellular prostheses composed of a resorbable guide seeded with autologous SCs appear as an alternative for repairing long gaps in injured nerves, approaching the success of autografts.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.