A novel decellularized nerve graft for repairing peripheral nerve long gap injury in the rat

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Abstract

Decellularized nerve allografts are an alternative to autograft for repairing severe nerve injuries, since they have higher availability and do not induce rejection. In this study, we have assessed the regenerative potential of a novel decellularization protocol for human and rat nerves for repairing nerve resections, compared to the gold standard autograft. A 15-mm gap in the sciatic nerve was repaired with decellularized rat allograft (DC-RA), decellularized human xenograft (DC-HX), or fresh autograft (AG). Electrophysiology tests were performed monthly to evaluate muscle reinnervation, whereas histological and immunohistochemical analyses of the grafts were evaluated at 4 months. A short-term study was also performed to compare the differences between the two decellularized grafts (DC-RA and DC-HX) in early phases of regeneration. The decellularization process eliminated cellularity while preserving the ECM and endoneurial tubules of both rat and human nerves. Higher amount of reinnervation was observed in the AG group compared to the DC-RA group, while only half of the animals of the DC-HX showed distal muscle reinnervation. The number of regenerating myelinated axons in the mid-graft was similar between AG and DC-RA and lower in DC-HX graft, but significantly lower in both DC grafts distally. At short term, fibroblasts repopulated the DC-RA graft, supporting regenerated axons, whereas an important fibrotic reaction was observed around DC-HX grafts. In conclusion, the decellularized allograft sustained regeneration through a long gap in the rat although at a slower rate compared to the ideal autograft, whereas regeneration was limited or even failed when using a decellularized xenograft.

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Contreras, E., Bolívar, S., Nieto-Nicolau, N., Fariñas, O., López-Chicón, P., Navarro, X., & Udina, E. (2022). A novel decellularized nerve graft for repairing peripheral nerve long gap injury in the rat. Cell and Tissue Research. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00441-022-03682-1

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