Compromised functional regains in about half of the patients following surgical nerve repair pose a serious socioeconomic burden to the society. Although surgical strategies such as end-to-end neurorrhaphy, nerve grafting and nerve transfer are widely applied in distal injuries leading to optimal recovery; however in proximal nerve defects functional outcomes remain unsatisfactory. Biomedical engineering approaches unite the efforts of the surgeons, engineers and biologists to develop regeneration facilitating structures such as extracellular matrix based supportive polymers and tubular nerve guidance channels. Such polymeric structures provide neurotrophic support from injured nerve stumps, retard the fibrous tissue infiltration and guide regenerating axons to appropriate targets. The development and application of nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) to treat nerve gap injuries offer clinically relevant and feasible solutions. Enhanced understanding of the nerve regeneration processes and advances in NGCs design, polymers and fabrication strategies have led to developing modern NGCs with superior regeneration-conducive capacities. Current review focuses on the advances in surgical and engineering approaches to treat peripheral nerve injuries. We suggest the incorporation of endothelial cell growth promoting cues and factors into the NGC interior for its possible enhancement effects on the axonal regeneration process that may result in substantial functional outcomes.
Keywords: Axon guidance; Nerve guidance conduits; Nerve vasculature; Surgical nerve repair.
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