Undifferentiated and differentiated adipose-derived stem cells improve nerve regeneration in a rat model of facial nerve defect

J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2017 Feb;11(2):362-374. doi: 10.1002/term.1919. Epub 2014 Jun 1.


Autologous nerve grafting is the current procedure used for repairing facial nerve gaps. As an alternative to this method, tissue engineering cell-based therapy using induced pluripotent stem cells, Schwann cells and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells has been proposed. However, these cells have major problems, including tumorigenesis in induced pluripotent stem cells and invasiveness and limited tissue associated with harvesting for the other cells. Here, we investigated the therapeutic potential of adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs), which can be harvested easily and repeatedly by a minimally invasive liposuction procedure. The ASCs had characteristics of mesenchymal tissue lineages and could differentiate into Schwann-like cells that were relatively simple to isolate and expand in culture. In an in vivo study, a silicone conduit containing undifferentiated ASCs, differentiated ASCs or Schwann cells were transplanted, embedded in a collagen gel and the efficacy of repair of a 7 mm-gap in the rat facial nerve examined. Morphometric quantification analysis of regenerated facial nerves after a regeneration period of 13 weeks showed that undifferentiated ASCs, differentiated ASCs, and Schwann cells had similar potential for nerve regeneration. Furthermore, the functional recovery of facial nerve regeneration using a rat facial palsy scoring system in the three groups was close to that in autologous nerve graft positive controls. These findings suggest that undifferentiated and differentiated ASCs may both have therapeutic potential in facial nerve regeneration as a source of Schwann cells in cell-based therapy performed as an alternative to autologous nerve grafts. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: Schwann cell; adipose-derived stem cell; differentiation; facial nerve; facial palsy score; regeneration; tissue engineering.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Facial Nerve / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Nerve Regeneration*
  • Phenotype
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Schwann Cells / cytology
  • Sciatic Nerve
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Tissue Engineering / methods


  • Collagen