Research on biomaterial nerve scaffolds has been carried out for 50 years. Only three materials (collagen, polycaprolactone and polyglycollic acid) have progressed to clinical use. Pre-clinical animal models are critical for testing nerve scaffolds prior to implementation in clinical practice. We have conducted a systematic review of 416 reports in which animal models were used for evaluation of nerve regeneration into synthetic conduits. A valid animal model of nerve regeneration requires it to reproduce the specific processes that take place in regeneration after human peripheral nerve injury. No distinct animal species meets all the requirements for an ideal animal model. Certain models are well suited for understanding regenerative neurobiology while others are better for pre-clinical evaluation of efficacy. The review identified that more than 70 synthetic materials were tested in eight species using 17 different nerves. Nerve gaps ranged from 1 to 90 mm. More than 20 types of assessment methodology were used with no standardization of methods between any of the publications. The review emphasizes the urgent need for standardization or rationalization of animal models and evaluation methods for studying nerve repair.
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