Micro-structural geometry of thin films intended for the inner lumen of nerve conduits affects nerve repair

J Mater Sci Mater Med. 2013 Jul;24(7):1639-47. doi: 10.1007/s10856-013-4922-5. Epub 2013 Apr 10.


Damage to peripheral nerves can cause significant motor or sensory injuries. In serious cases, a nerve is sacrificed from another part of the body to repair a damaged nerve (autograft). The development of biodegradable polymer conduits may offer an alternative to autografts. This study investigated the surface topography and mechanical properties of smooth, pitted and grooved structures of ultra-thin poly (ε-caprolactone)/poly lactic acid blended, solvent-cast films. We have investigated the effect of the groove shape on cell morphology and alignment. Photolithography and dry/wet etching was used to develop patterned silicon substrates with grooves with accurate geometries (V shaped, sloped walls and square shaped). Using a neural cell line (NG108-15), in vitro experiments confirmed good cell attachment and proliferation on all the polymer scaffolds. Imaging techniques demonstrated that there was different cellular responses and morphology according to the shape of the groove. Studies showed that the geometry, particularly the angle of the slope and the space between grooves, affected cellular responses. In addition, biomechanical studies showed that the patterned films had excellent mechanical properties and were stronger than the natural nerve. The conduit tubes were made by rolling the films around a mandrel and using a thermal welding technique to join the edges. The promising biomechanical and in vitro results demonstrate that nerve cell responses are affected by the shape of longitudinal grooves, and particularly by the angle of the slope of the groove walls.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorbable Implants / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Guided Tissue Regeneration / adverse effects
  • Guided Tissue Regeneration / instrumentation*
  • Humans
  • Materials Testing
  • Membranes, Artificial*
  • Nerve Regeneration / drug effects
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Peripheral Nerves / drug effects
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology*
  • Polyesters / chemistry
  • Polyesters / pharmacology
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Polymers / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Silicon / chemistry
  • Silicon / pharmacology
  • Surface Properties
  • Tissue Scaffolds* / adverse effects
  • Tissue Scaffolds* / chemistry


  • Membranes, Artificial
  • Polyesters
  • Polymers
  • polycaprolactone
  • Silicon