Functional recovery following peripheral nerve injury is limited by progressive atrophy of denervated muscle and Schwann cells (SCs) that occurs during the long regenerative period prior to end-organ reinnervation. Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is a potent mitogen with well-described trophic and anti-apoptotic effects on neurons, myocytes, and SCs. Achieving sustained, targeted delivery of small protein therapeutics remains a challenge. We hypothesized that a novel nanoparticle (NP) delivery system can provide controlled release of bioactive IGF-1 targeted to denervated muscle and nerve tissue to achieve improved motor recovery through amelioration of denervation-induced muscle atrophy and SC senescence and enhanced axonal regeneration. Biodegradable NPs with encapsulated IGF-1/dextran sulfate polyelectrolyte complexes were formulated using a flash nanoprecipitation method to preserve IGF-1 bioactivity and maximize encapsulation efficiencies. Under optimized conditions, uniform PEG-b-PCL NPs were generated with an encapsulation efficiency of 88.4%, loading level of 14.2%, and a near-zero-order release of bioactive IGF-1 for more than 20 days in vitro. The effects of locally delivered IGF-1 NPs on denervated muscle and SCs were assessed in a rat median nerve transection-without- repair model. The effects of IGF-1 NPs on axonal regeneration, muscle atrophy, reinnervation, and recovery of motor function were assessed in a model in which chronic denervation is induced prior to nerve repair. IGF-1 NP treatment resulted in significantly greater recovery of forepaw grip strength, decreased denervation-induced muscle atrophy, decreased SC senescence, and improved neuromuscular reinnervation.
Keywords: Chronic denervation; IGF-1; Nanoparticles; Nerve regeneration; Peripheral nerve injury.
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