Long-term studies on nerve-guide regeneration are scarce. Therefore, in rats, long-term (16 months) sciatic nerve regeneration through poly(DL-lactide-epsilon-caprolactone) [poly(DLLA-epsilon-CL)] nerve guides was studied and compared with the nonoperated control side. Poly(DLLA-epsilon-CL) degradation and possible long-term foreign body reaction against poly(DLLA-epsilon-CL) nerve guides, as well as the distribution of both collagen type III and IV were studied. In vivo poly(DLLA-epsilon-CL) studies have been performed before but not for such long time points; also, a detailed analysis of collagen III/IV has not been presented before. The results demonstrate that biodegradable poly(DLLA-epsilon-CL) nerve guides yield good nerve regeneration and collagen III/IV deposition relative to the anatomy of the control side. Regenerated nerve showed almost similar collagen type III/IV distribution patterns as compared with the nonoperated control side, although the delineation of matrix was clearer in the control side. The relative amount of collagen III and IV immunostaining in nerve cross-sections did not, however, differ between the control nerve tissue and the operated side after 16 months. After 16 months of implantation, however, some very small fragments of biomaterial could still be found on the edge of the epineurium of the regenerated nerve, indicating remnants of a secondary foreign body reaction. The biomaterial fragments and foreign body reaction did not influence the nerve regeneration process after 16 months. Biodegradable poly(DLLA-epsilon-CL) nerve guides are useful for long-term bridging of short peripheral nerve gaps.
Copyright 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res 69A: 334-341, 2004