Neurite outgrowth is significantly increased by the simultaneous presentation of Schwann cells and moderate exogenous electric fields

J Neural Eng. 2011 Aug;8(4):046023. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/4/046023. Epub 2011 Jun 29.


Axonal extension is influenced by a variety of external guidance cues; therefore, the development and optimization of a multi-faceted approach is probably necessary to address the intricacy of functional regeneration following nerve injury. In this study, primary dissociated neonatal rat dorsal root ganglia neurons and Schwann cells were examined in response to an 8 h dc electrical stimulation (0-100 mV mm(-1)). Stimulated samples were then fixed immediately, immunostained, imaged and analyzed to determine Schwann cell orientation and characterize neurite outgrowth relative to electric field strength and direction. Results indicate that Schwann cells are viable following electrical stimulation with 10-100 mV mm(-1), and retain a normal morphology relative to unstimulated cells; however, no directional bias is observed. Neurite outgrowth was significantly enhanced by twofold following exposure to either a 50 mV mm(-1) electric field (EF) or co-culture with unstimulated Schwann cells by comparison to neurons cultured alone. Neurite outgrowth was further increased in the presence of simultaneously applied cues (Schwann cells + 50 mV mm(-1) dc EF), exhibiting a 3.2-fold increase over unstimulated control neurons, and a 1.2-fold increase over either neurons cultured with unstimulated Schwann cells or the electrical stimulus alone. These results indicate that dc electric stimulation in combination with Schwann cells may provide synergistic guidance cues for improved axonal growth relevant to nerve injuries in the peripheral nervous system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cell Separation
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electrodes
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neurites / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Schwann Cells / physiology*
  • Tissue Fixation