Peripheral nerve possesses the inherent ability to regrow and recover following injury. However, nerve regeneration is often slow and incomplete due to limitations associated with the local microenvironment during the repair process. Manipulation of the local microenvironment at the site of nerve repair, therefore, represents a significant opportunity for improvement in downstream outcomes. Macrophages and Schwann cells play a key role in the orchestration of early events after peripheral nerve injury. We describe the production, characterization, and use of an injectable, peripheral nerve-specific extracellular matrix-based hydrogel (PNSECM) for promoting modulation of the local macrophage and Schwann cell responses at the site of nerve repair in a rodent model of sciatic nerve injury. We show that PNSECM hydrogels largely maintain the matrix structure associated with normal native peripheral nerve tissue. PNSECM hydrogels were also found to promote increased macrophage invasion, higher percentages of M2 macrophages and enhanced Schwann cell migration when used as a lumen filler in a rodent model of nerve gap repair using an inert nerve guidance conduit. These results suggest that an injectable PNSECM hydrogel can provide a supportive, bioactive scaffold which promotes repair of peripheral nerve in vivo. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 106A: 450-459, 2018.
Keywords: extracellular matrix; hydrogel; macrophage; nerve; regenerative medicine.
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.