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1.  Key changes in denervated muscles and their impact on regeneration and reinnervation 
Neural Regeneration Research  2014;9(20):1796-1809.
The neuromuscular junction becomes progressively less receptive to regenerating axons if nerve repair is delayed for a long period of time. It is difficult to ascertain the denervated muscle's residual receptivity by time alone. Other sensitive markers that closely correlate with the extent of denervation should be found. After a denervated muscle develops a fibrillation potential, muscle fiber conduction velocity, muscle fiber diameter, muscle wet weight, and maximal isometric force all decrease; remodeling increases neuromuscular junction fragmentation and plantar area, and expression of myogenesis-related genes is initially up-regulated and then down-regulated. All these changes correlate with both the time course and degree of denervation. The nature and time course of these denervation changes in muscle are reviewed from the literature to explore their roles in assessing both the degree of detrimental changes and the potential success of a nerve repair. Fibrillation potential amplitude, muscle fiber conduction velocity, muscle fiber diameter, mRNA expression levels of myogenic regulatory factors and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor could all reflect the severity and length of denervation and the receptiveness of denervated muscle to regenerating axons, which could possibly offer an important clue for surgical choices and predict the outcomes of delayed nerve repair.
PMCID: PMC4239769  PMID: 25422641
nerve regeneration; denervation; reinnervation; fibrillation potential; muscle fiber conduction velocity; muscle fiber diameter; maximal isometric force; neuromuscular junction; gene expression; neural regeneration
2.  Controlled release of vascular endothelial growth factor using poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid microspheres: In vitro characterization and application in polycaprolactone fumarate nerve conduits 
Acta biomaterialia  2011;8(2):511-518.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent angiogenic stimulator. Controlled release of such stimulators may enhance and guide the vascularization process, and when applied in a nerve conduit may play a role in nerve regeneration. We report the fabrication and in vitro characterization of VEGF encapsulating poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) microspheres and the in vivo application of nerve conduits supplemented with VEGF-containing microspheres. PLGA microspheres containing VEGF were prepared by the double emulsion-solvent evaporation technique. This yielded 83.16% of the microspheres with a diameter < 53 µm. VEGF content measured by ELISA indicated 93.79 ±10.64% encapsulation efficiency. Release kinetics were characterized by an initial burst release of 67.6±8.25% within the first 24 hours, followed by consistent release of approximately 0.34% per day for 4 weeks. Bioactivity of the released VEGF was tested by human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) proliferation assay. VEGF released at all time points enhanced HUVEC proliferation confirming that VEGF retained its bioactivity through the 4-week time period. When the microsphere delivery system was placed in a biosynthetic nerve scaffold, robust nerve regeneration was observed. This study established a novel system for controlled release of growth factors and enables in vivo studies of nerve conduits conditioned with this system.
PMCID: PMC3972821  PMID: 22019759
microsphere; poly-lactic co-glycolic acid; vascular endothelial growth factor; bioactivity; biodegradation; nerve guide
3.  Development of Electrically Conductive Oligo(polyethylene Glycol) Fumarate-Polypyrrole Hydrogels for Nerve Regeneration 
Biomacromolecules  2010;11(11):2845-2853.
Electrically conductive hydrogel composites consisting of oligo(polyethylene glycol) fumarate (OPF) and polypyrrole (PPy) were developed for applications in nerve regeneration. OPF-PPy scaffolds were synthesized using three different anions: naphthalene-2-sulfonic acid sodium salt (NSA), dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid sodium salt (DBSA), and dioctyl sulfosuccinate sodium salt (DOSS). Scaffolds were characterized by ATR-FTIR, XPS, AFM, dynamic mechanical analysis, electrical resistivity measurements, and swelling experiments. OPF-PPy scaffolds were shown to consist of up to 25 mol% polypyrrole with a compressive modulus ranging from 265 to 323 kPa and a sheet resistance ranging from 6 to 30 × 103 Ohms/square. In vitro studies using PC12 cells showed OPF-PPy materials had no cytotoxicity and PC12 cells showed distinctly better cell attachment and an increase in the percent of neurite bearing cells on OPF-PPy materials compared to OPF. The neurite lengths of PC12 cells were significantly higher on OPF-PPyNSA and OPF-PPyDBSA. These results show that electrically conductive OPF-PPy hydrogels are promising candidates for future applications in nerve regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3947846  PMID: 20942380
hydrogel; electrical; conductive; nerve; tissue regeneration
4.  A systematic review of animal models used to study nerve regeneration in tissue-engineered scaffolds 
Biomaterials  2012;33(32):8034-8039.
Research on biomaterial nerve scaffolds has been carried out for 50 years. Only three materials (collagen, polycaprolactone and polyglycollic acid) have progressed to clinical use. Pre-clinical animal models are critical for testing nerve scaffolds prior to implementation in clinical practice. We have conducted a systematic review of 416 reports in which animal models were used for evaluation of nerve regeneration into synthetic conduits. A valid animal model of nerve regeneration requires it to reproduce the specific processes that take place in regeneration after human peripheral nerve injury. No distinct animal species meets all the requirements for an ideal animal model. Certain models are well suited for understanding regenerative neurobiology while others are better for pre-clinical evaluation of efficacy. The review identified that more than 70 synthetic materials were tested in eight species using 17 different nerves. Nerve gaps ranged from 1 to 90 mm. More than 20 types of assessment methodology were used with no standardization of methods between any of the publications. The review emphasizes the urgent need for standardization or rationalization of animal models and evaluation methods for studying nerve repair.
PMCID: PMC3472515  PMID: 22889485
Peripheral nerve injury; peripheral nerve repair; nerve tube; nerve scaffold; biodegradable
5.  Comparison of polymer scaffolds in rat spinal cord: A step toward quantitative assessment of combinatorial approaches to spinal cord repair 
Biomaterials  2011;32(32):8077-8086.
The transected rat thoracic (T9/10) spinal cord model is a platform for quantitatively compa0ring biodegradable polymer scaffolds. Schwann cell-loaded scaffolds constructed from poly (lactic co-glycolic acid) (PLGA), poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate) (PCLF), oligo(polyethylene glycol) fumarate (OPF) hydrogel or positively charged OPF (OPF+) hydrogel were implanted into the model. We demonstrated that the mechanical properties (3-point bending and stiffness) of OPF and OPF+ hydrogels closely resembled rat spinal cord. After one month, tissues were harvested and analyzed by morphometry of neurofilament-stained sections at rostral, midlevel, and caudal scaffold. All polymers supported axonal growth. Significantly higher numbers of axons were found in PCLF (P < 0.01) and OPF+ (P < 0.05) groups, compared to that of the PLGA group. OPF+ polymers showed more centrally distributed axonal regeneration within the channels while other polymers (PLGA, PCLF and OPF) tended to show more evenly dispersed axons within the channels. The centralized distribution was associated with significantly more axons regenerating (P < 0.05). Volume of scar and cyst rostral and caudal to the implanted scaffold was measured and compared. There were significantly smaller cyst volumes in PLGA compared to PCLF groups. The model provides a quantitative basis for assessing individual and combined tissue engineering strategies.
PMCID: PMC3163757  PMID: 21803415
OPF; PLGA; PCLF; axon regeneration; spinal cord injury; Schwann cell
6.  Accuracy of Motor Axon Regeneration Across Autograft, Single Lumen, and Multichannel Poly(lactic-co-glycolic Acid) (PLGA) Nerve Tubes 
Neurosurgery  2008;63(1):144-155.
Accuracy of motor axon regeneration becomes an important issue in the development of a nerve tube for motor nerve repair. Dispersion of regeneration across the nerve tube may lead to misdirection and polyinnervation. In this study, we present a series of methods to investigate the accuracy of regeneration, which we used to compare regeneration across autografts and single lumen poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nerve tubes. We also present the concept of the multichannel nerve tube that may limit dispersion by separately guiding groups of regenerating axons.
Simultaneous tracing of the tibial and peroneal nerves with fast blue (FB) and diamidino yellow (DY), 8 weeks after repair of a 1-cm nerve gap in the rat sciatic nerve, was performed to determine the percentage of double-projecting motoneurons. Sequential tracing of the peroneal nerve with DY 1 week before and FB 8 weeks after repair was performed to determine the percentage of correctly directed peroneal motoneurons.
In the cases in which there was successful regeneration across single lumen nerve tubes, more motoneurons had double projections to both the tibial and peroneal nerve branches after single lumen nerve tube repair (21.4%) than after autograft repair (5.9%). After multichannel nerve tube repair, this percentage was slightly reduced (16.9%), although not significantly. The direction of regeneration was nonspecific after all types of repair.
Retrograde tracing techniques provide new insights into the process of regeneration across nerve tubes. The methods and data presented in this study can be used as a basis in the development of a nerve tube for motor nerve repair.
PMCID: PMC3463233  PMID: 18728579
misdirection; axon targeting; double labeling; peripheral nerve regeneration; rat sciatic nerve model; retrograde tracing
7.  Sustained Delivery of Dibutyryl Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate to the Transected Spinal Cord Via Oligo [(Polyethylene Glycol) Fumarate] Hydrogels 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2011;17(9-10):1287-1302.
This study describes the use of oligo [(polyethylene glycol) fumarate] (OPF) hydrogel scaffolds as vehicles for sustained delivery of dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate (dbcAMP) to the transected spinal cord. dbcAMP was encapsulated in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microspheres, which were embedded within the scaffolds architecture. Functionality of the released dbcAMP was assessed using neurite outgrowth assays in PC12 cells and by delivery to the transected spinal cord within OPF seven channel scaffolds, which had been loaded with Schwann cells or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Our results showed that encapsulation of dbcAMP in microspheres lead to prolonged release and continued functionality in vitro. These microspheres were then successfully incorporated into OPF scaffolds and implanted in the transected thoracic spinal cord. Sustained delivery of dbcAMP inhibited axonal regeneration in the presence of Schwann cells but rescued MSC-induced inhibition of axonal regeneration. dbcAMP was also shown to reduce capillary formation in the presence of MSCs, which was coupled with significant functional improvements. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating PLGA microsphere technology for spinal cord transection studies. It represents a novel sustained delivery mechanism within the transected spinal cord and provides a platform for potential delivery of other therapeutic agents.
PMCID: PMC3079174  PMID: 21198413
8.  Material properties and electrical stimulation regimens through polycaprolactone fumarate-polypyrrole scaffolds as potential conductive nerve conduits 
Acta biomaterialia  2010;7(3):944-953.
Mechanical and electrical properties of polycaprolactone fumarate-polypyrrole (PCLF-PPy) scaffolds were studied under physiological conditions to evaluate their ability to maintain material properties necessary for application as conductive nerve conduits. PC12 cells cultured on PCLF-PPy scaffolds were stimulated with regimens of 10 μA of constant or 20 Hz frequency current passed through the scaffolds for 1 h/day. PC12 cellular morphologies were analyzed by fluorescence microscopy after 48 h. PCLF-PPy scaffolds exhibited excellent mechanical properties at 37°C which would allow suturing and flexibility. The surface resistivity of the scaffolds was 2kΩ and the scaffolds were electrically stable during application of electrical stimulation (ES). In vitro studies showed significant increases in percentage of neurite bearing cells, number of neurites per cell and neurite length in the presence of ES compared to no ES. Additionally, extending neurites were observed to align in the direction of the applied current. This study shows that electrically conductive PCLF-PPy scaffolds possess material properties necessary for application as nerve conduits. Additionally, the capability to significantly enhance and direct neurite extension by passing electrical current through PCLF-PPy scaffolds renders them even more promising as future therapeutic treatments for severe nerve injuries.
PMCID: PMC3031729  PMID: 20965280
Electrical Stimulation; Polypyrrole; Nerve; PCLF; PC12 cells
9.  In vitro and In vivo Release of Nerve Growth Factor from Biodegradable Poly-Lactic-Co-Glycolic-Acid Microspheres 
Regeneration of peripheral nerves after injury is suboptimal. We now report the long term delivery of nerve growth factor (NGF) by biodegradable poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) microspheres in vitro and in vivo. Lactic to glycolic acid ratios of 50:50 and 85:15 were fabricated using the double emulsion solvent, evaporation technique. Three different inherent viscosities (0.1dL/g: 1A, 0.4dL/g: 4A, 0.7dL/g: 7A) were analyzed. In vitro, release of NGF for 23 days was measured. Electron microscopy demonstrated intact spheres for at least 7 days (50:50 1A), 14 days (50:50 4A) or 35 days (50:50 7A and 85:15 7A). In vitro release kinetics were characterized by burst release, followed by release of NGF at a rate of 0.6%-1.6% a day. Release curves for 50:50 1A and 85:15 7A differed significantly from other compositions (p<0.01). In vivo, release was characterized by a novel radionuclide tracking assay. Release rates varied from 0.9%-2.2% per day with linear kinetics. All but the 85:15 type of spheres showed different release profiles in vivo compared to in vitro conditions. Based on the surface morphology and release profiles we found microspheres fabricated from 50:50 4A PLGA to be best suited for the use in a rat sciatic nerve injury model.
PMCID: PMC2989534  PMID: 20878933
Nerve Growth Factor; Microspheres; Peripheral Nerve; Poly-lactic-co-glycolic-acid; Dorsal root ganglia
10.  In Vivo Biodegradation and Biocompatibility of PEG/Sebacic Acid-Based Hydrogels using a Cage Implant System 
Comprehensive in vivo biodegradability and biocompatibility of unmodified and Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) peptide-modified PEG/Sebacic acid based hydrogels were evaluated and compared to the control material poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) using a cage implantation system, as well as direct subcutaneous implantation for up to 12 weeks. The total weight loss after 12 weeks of implantation for unmodified PEGSDA and RGD-modified PEGSDA in the cage was approximately 42% and 52%, respectively, with no statistical difference (p> 0.05). The exudate analysis showed that PEGSDA hydrogels induced minimal inflammatory response up to 21 days following implantation, similar to the controls (empty cage and the cage containing PLGA discs). Histology analysis from direct subcutaneous implantation of the hydrogels and PLGA scaffold showed statistically similar resolution of the acute and chronic inflammatory responses with development of the fibrous capsule between the PEGSDA hydrogels and the control (PLGA). The cage system, as well as the histology analysis, demonstrated that the degradation products of both hydrogels, with or without RGD peptide modification, are biocompatible without statistically significant differences in the inflammatory responses, as compared to PLGA.
PMCID: PMC2928850  PMID: 20574982
In vivo biocompatibility; In vivo biodegradation; PEG sebacic acid diacrylate; Hydrogel; RGD-modified hydrogel; Cage implantation
11.  The Development of Electrically Conductive Polycaprolactone Fumarate-Polypyrrole Composite Materials for Nerve Regeneration 
Biomaterials  2010;31(23):5916-5926.
Electrically conductive polymer composites composed of polycaprolactone fumarate and polypyrrole (PCLF-PPy) have been developed for nerve regeneration applications. Here we report the synthesis and characterization of PCLF-PPy and in vitro studies showing PCLF-PPy materials support both PC12 cell and dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurite extension. PCLF-PPy composite materials were synthesized by polymerizing pyrrole in pre-formed PCLF scaffolds (Mn 7,000 or 18,000 g mol−1) resulting in interpenetrating networks of PCLF-PPy. Chemical compositions and thermal properties were characterized by ATR-FTIR, XPS, DSC, and TGA. PCLF-PPy materials were synthesized with five different anions (naphthalene-2-sulfonic acid sodium salt (NSA), dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid sodium salt (DBSA), dioctyl sulfosuccinate sodium salt (DOSS), potassium iodide (I), and lysine) to investigate effects on electrical conductivity and to optimize chemical composition for cellular compatibility. PCLF-PPy materials have variable electrical conductivity up to 6 mS cm−1 with bulk compositions ranging from 5 to 13.5 percent polypyrrole. AFM and SEM characterization show microstructures with a root mean squared (RMS) roughness of 1195 nm and nanostructures with RMS roughness of 8 nm. In vitro studies using PC12 cells and DRG show PCLF-PPy materials synthesized with NSA or DBSA support cell attachment, proliferation, neurite extension, and are promising materials for future studies involving electrical stimulation.
PMCID: PMC2893281  PMID: 20483452
Electrically Conductive; Polypyrrole; Nerve; PCLF
12.  Importance of the vasculature in cyst formation after spinal cord injury 
Journal of neurosurgery. Spine  2009;11(4):432-437.
Glial scar and cystic formation greatly contribute to the inhibition of axonal regeneration after spinal cord injury (SCI). Attempts to promote axonal regeneration are extremely challenging in this type of hostile environment. The objective of this study was to examine the surgical methods that may be used to assess the factors that influence the level of scar and cystic formation in SCI.
In the first part of this study, a complete transection was performed at vertebral level T9–10 in adult female Sprague-Dawley rats. The dura mater was either left open (control group) or was closed using sutures or hyaluronic acid. In the second part of the study, complete or subpial transection was performed, with the same dural closure technique applied to both groups. Histological analysis of longitudinal sections of the spinal cord was performed, and the percentage of scar and cyst formation was determined.
Dural closure using sutures resulted in significantly less glial scar formation (p = 0.0248), while incorporation of the subpial transection surgical technique was then shown to significantly decrease cyst formation (p < 0.0001).
In this study, the authors demonstrated the importance of the vasculature in cyst formation after spinal cord trauma and confirmed the importance of dural closure in reducing glial scar formation.
PMCID: PMC2981802  PMID: 19929340
traumatic spinal cord injury; vascular injury; glial cell response to injury
13.  Current tissue engineering and novel therapeutic approaches to axonal regeneration following spinal cord injury using polymer scaffolds☆ 
This review highlights current tissue engineering and novel therapeutic approaches to axonal regeneration following spinal cord injury. The concept of developing 3-dimensional polymer scaffolds for placement into a spinal cord transection model has recently been more extensively explored as a solution for restoring neurologic function after injury. Given the patient morbidity associated with respiratory compromise, the discrete tracts in the spinal cord conveying innervation for breathing represent an important and achievable therapeutic target. The aim is to derive new neuronal tissue from the surrounding, healthy cord that will be guided by the polymer implant through the injured area to make functional reconnections. A variety of naturally derived and synthetic biomaterial polymers have been developed for placement in the injured spinal cord. Axonal growth is supported by inherent properties of the selected polymer, the architecture of the scaffold, permissive microstructures such as pores, grooves or polymer fibres, and surface modifications to provide improved adherence and growth directionality. Structural support of axonal regeneration is combined with integrated polymeric and cellular delivery systems for therapeutic drugs and for neurotrophic molecules to regionalize growth of specific nerve populations.
PMCID: PMC2981799  PMID: 19737633
Spinal cord injury; Axonal regeneration; Polymer scaffold; Tissue engineering; Neurotrophins
14.  Designing ideal conduits for peripheral nerve repair 
Neurosurgical focus  2009;26(2):E5.
Nerve tubes, guides, or conduits are a promising alternative for autologous nerve graft repair. The first biodegradable empty single lumen or hollow nerve tubes are currently available for clinical use and are being used mostly in the repair of small-diameter nerves with nerve defects of < 3 cm. These nerve tubes are made of different biomaterials using various fabrication techniques. As a result these tubes also differ in physical properties. In addition, several modifications to the common hollow nerve tube (for example, the addition of Schwann cells, growth factors, and internal frameworks) are being investigated that may increase the gap that can be bridged. This combination of chemical, physical, and biological factors has made the design of a nerve conduit into a complex process that demands close collaboration of bioengineers, neuroscientists, and peripheral nerve surgeons. In this article the authors discuss the different steps that are involved in the process of the design of an ideal nerve conduit for peripheral nerve repair.
PMCID: PMC2978041  PMID: 19435445
biomaterial; growth factor; nerve conduit; nerve guide; nerve tube; polymer; Schwann cell
15.  Axon Regeneration through Scaffold into Distal Spinal Cord after Transection 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2009;26(10):1759-1771.
We employed Fast Blue (FB) axonal tracing to determine the origin of regenerating axons after thoracic spinal cord transection injury in rats. Schwann cell (SC)-loaded, biodegradable, poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) scaffolds were implanted after transection. Scaffolds loaded with solubilized basement membrane preparation (without SCs) were used for negative controls, and nontransected cords were positive controls. One or 2 months after injury and scaffold implantation, FB was injected 0–15 mm caudal or about 5 mm rostral to the scaffold. One week later, tissue was harvested and the scaffold and cord sectioned longitudinally (30 μm) on a cryostat. Trans-scaffold labeling of neuron cell bodies was identified with confocal microscopy in all cell-transplanted groups. Large (30–50 μm diameter) neuron cell bodies were predominantly labeled in the ventral horn region. Most labeled neurons were seen 1–10 mm rostral to the scaffold, although some neurons were also labeled in the cervical cord. Axonal growth occurred bidirectionally after cord transection, and axons regenerated up to 14 mm beyond the PLGA scaffolds and into distal cord. The extent of FB labeling was negatively correlated with distance from the injection site to the scaffold. Electron microscopy showed myelinated axons in the transverse sections of the implanted scaffold 2 months after implantation. The pattern of myelination, with extracellular collagen and basal lamina, was characteristic of SC myelination. Our results show that FB labeling is an effective way to measure the origin of regenerating axons.
PMCID: PMC2763055  PMID: 19413501
axonal tracing; biodegradable polymers; Fast Blue; Schwann cells; spinal cord injury
16.  Relationship between Scaffold Channel Diameter and Number of Regenerating Axons in the Transected Rat Spinal Cord 
Acta biomaterialia  2009;5(7):2551-2559.
Regeneration of endogenous axons through a Schwann cell (SC)-seeded scaffold implant has been demonstrated in the transected rat spinal cord. The formation of a cellular lining in the scaffold channel may limit the degree of axonal regeneration. Spinal cords of adult rats were transected and implanted with the SC-loaded polylactic co-glycollic acid (PLGA) scaffold implants containing seven parallel-aligned channels, either 450-μm (n=19) or 660-μm in diameter (n=14). Animals were sacrificed after 1, 2, and 3 months. Immunohistochemistry for neurofilament-expression was performed. The cross-sectional area of fibrous tissue and regenerative core was calculated. We found that the 450-μm scaffolds had significantly greater axon fibers per channel at the one month (186 ± 37) and three month (78 ± 11) endpoints than the 660-μm scaffolds (90 ± 19 and 40 ± 6, respectively) (P=0.0164 & 0.0149, respectively). The difference in the area of fibrous rim between the 450-μm and 660-μm channels was most pronounced at the one month endpoint, at 28,046 μm2 ± 6,551 and 58,633 μm2 ± 7,063, respectively (P=0.0105). Our study suggests that fabricating scaffolds with smaller diameter channels promotes greater regeneration over larger diameter channels. Axonal regeneration was reduced in the larger channels due to the generation of a large fibrous rim. Optimization of this scaffold environment establishes a platform for future studies of the effects of cell types, trophic factors or pharmacological agents on the regenerative capacity of the injured spinal cord.
PMCID: PMC2731813  PMID: 19409869
Biomedical Engineering; Tissue Development and Growth; Central Nervous System; Polymeric Scaffolds
17.  Stimulation of neurite outgrowth using positively charged hydrogels 
Biomaterials  2009;30(23-24):3874-3881.
Autologous nerve grafts are currently the best option for the treatment of segmental peripheral nerve defects. However, autografts have several drawbacks including size mismatch and loss of sensation in the donor nerve’s sensory distribution. In this work, we have investigated the development of a synthetic hydrogel that contains positive charge for use as a substrate for nerve cell attachment and neurite outgrowth in culture. We have demonstrated that modification of oligo-(polyethylene glycol) fumarate (OPF) with a positively charged monomer improves primary sensory rat neuron attachment and differentiation in a dose-dependent manner. Positively charged hydrogels also supported attachment of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) explants that contain sensory neurons, Schwann cells and neuronal support cells. Furthermore, charged hydrogels were analyzed for the appearance of myelinated structures in a co-culture containing DRG neurons and Schwann cells. DRGs and Schwann cells remained viable on charged hydrogels for a time period of three weeks and neurites extended from the DRGs. Sudan black staining revealed that neurites emerging from DRGs were accompanied by migrating Schwann cells. These findings suggest that charged OPF hydrogels are capable of sustaining both primary nerve cells and the neural support cells that are critical for regeneration.
PMCID: PMC2716054  PMID: 19427689
hydrogel; nerve regeneration; Schwann cells; scaffold
18.  Neural Stem Cell– and Schwann Cell–Loaded Biodegradable Polymer Scaffolds Support Axonal Regeneration in the Transected Spinal Cord 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2009;15(7):1797-1805.
Biodegradable polymer scaffolds provide an excellent approach to quantifying critical factors necessary for restoration of function after a transection spinal cord injury. Neural stem cells (NSCs) and Schwann cells (SCs) support axonal regeneration. This study examines the compatibility of NSCs and SCs with the poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid polymer scaffold and quantitatively assesses their potential to promote regeneration after a spinal cord transection injury in rats. NSCs were cultured as neurospheres and characterized by immunostaining for nestin (NSCs), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) (astrocytes), βIII-tubulin (immature neurons), oligodendrocyte-4 (immature oligodendrocytes), and myelin oligodendrocyte (mature oligodendrocytes), while SCs were characterized by immunostaining for S-100. Rats with transection injuries received scaffold implants containing NSCs (n = 17), SCs (n = 17), and no cells (control) (n = 8). The degree of axonal regeneration was determined by counting neurofilament-stained axons through the scaffold channels 1 month after transplantation. Serial sectioning through the scaffold channels in NSC- and SC-treated groups revealed the presence of nestin, neurofilament, S-100, and βIII tubulin–positive cells. GFAP-positive cells were only seen at the spinal cord–scaffold border. There were significantly more axons in the NSC- and SC- treated groups compared to the control group. In conclusion, biodegradable scaffolds with aligned columns seeded with NSCs or SCs facilitate regeneration across the transected spinal cord. Further, these multichannel biodegradable polymer scaffolds effectively serve as platforms for quantitative analysis of axonal regeneration.
PMCID: PMC2792101  PMID: 19191513
19.  Photo-crosslinked Hybrid Polymer Networks Consisting of Poly(propylene fumarate) (PPF) and Poly(caprolactone fumarate) (PCLF): Controlled Physical Properties and Regulated Bone and Nerve Cell Responses 
Biomacromolecules  2008;9(4):1229-1241.
Aiming to achieve suitable polymeric biomaterials with controlled physical properties for hard and soft tissue replacements, we have developed a series of blends consisting of two photo-crosslinkable polymers: polypropylene fumarate (PPF) and polycaprolactone fumarate (PCLF). Physical properties of both uncrosslinked and UV crosslinked PPF/PCLF blends with PPF composition ranging from 0% to 100% have been investigated extensively. It has been found that the physical properties such as thermal, rheological, and mechanical properties could be modulated efficiently by varying the PPF composition in the blends. Thermal properties including glass transition temperature (Tg) and melting temperature (Tm) have been correlated with their rheological and mechanical properties. Surface characteristics such as surface morphology, hydrophilicity and the capability of adsorbing serum protein from culture medium have also been examined for the crosslinked polymer and blend discs. For potential applications in bone and nerve tissue engineering, in vitro cell studies including cytotoxicity, cell adhesion, and proliferation on crosslinked discs with controlled physical properties have been performed using rat bone marrow stromal cells and SPL201 cells, respectively. In addition, the role of mechanical properties such as surface stiffness in modulating cell responses has been emphasized using this model blend system.
PMCID: PMC2888142  PMID: 18307311
Photo-crosslinking; Polymer blends; Poly(propylene fumarate) (PPF); Poly(caprolactone fumarate) (PCLF); Controlled physical properties; Cell responses
20.  Photo-Crosslinked Poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate) Networks for Peripheral Nerve Regeneration: Physical Properties and Preliminary Biological Evaluations 
Acta biomaterialia  2009;5(5):1531-1542.
In an effort of achieving suitable biomaterials for peripheral nerve regeneration, we present a material design strategy of combining a crystallite-based physical network and a crosslink-based chemical network. Biodegradable polymer disks and conduits have been fabricated by photo-crosslinking three poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate)s (PCLF530, PCLF1250, and PCLF2000), which were synthesized from the precursor poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) diols with nominal molecular weights of 530, 1250, and 2000 g.mol−1, respectively. Thermal properties such as glass transition temperature (Tg), melting temperature (Tm), and crystallinity of photo-crosslinked PCLFs were examined and correlated with their rheological and mechanical properties. Furthermore, in vitro degradation of uncrosslinked and crosslinked PCLFs in PBS crosslinked PCLFs in 1 N NaOH aqueous solution at 37 °C was studied. In vitro cytocompatibility, attachment, and proliferation of Schwann cell precursor line SPL201 cells on three PCLF networks were investigated. Crosslinked PCLF2000 with the highest crystallinity and mechanical properties was found to best support cell attachment and proliferation. Using a new photo-crosslinking method, single-lumen crosslinked PCLF nerve conduits without defects were fabricated in a glass mold. Crosslinked PCLF2000 nerve conduits were selected for evaluation in a 1-cm gap rat sciatic nerve model. Histological evaluation demonstrated that the material was biocompatible with sufficient strength to hold sutures in place after 6 and 17 weeks of implantation. Nerve cable with myelinated axons was found in the crosslinked PCLF2000 nerve conduit.
PMCID: PMC2869216  PMID: 19171506
Poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate); Photo-crosslinking; Peripheral nerve regeneration; Cell responses
21.  Rigid Fixation of the Spinal Column Improves Scaffold Alignment and Prevents Scoliosis in the Transected Rat Spinal Cord 
Spine  2008;33(24):E914-E919.
Study Design
A controlled study to evaluate a new technique for spinal rod fixation after spinal cord injury in rats. Alignment of implanted tissue-engineered scaffolds was assessed radiographically and by magnetic resonance imaging.
To evaluate the stability of implanted scaffolds and the extent of kyphoscoliotic deformities after spinal fixation.
Summary of Background Data
Biodegradable scaffolds provide an excellent platform for the quantitative assessment of cellular and molecular factors that promote regeneration within the transected cord. Successful delivery of scaffolds to the damaged cord can be hampered by malalignment following transplantation, which in turn, hinders the assessment of neural regeneration.
Radio-opaque barium sulfate-impregnated poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid scaffolds were implanted into spinal transection injuries in adult rats. Spinal fixation was performed in one group of animals using a metal rod fixed to the spinous processes above and below the site of injury, while the control group received no fixation. Radiographic morphometry was performed after 2 and 4 weeks, and 3-dimensional magnetic resonance microscopy analysis 4 weeks after surgery.
Over the course of 4 weeks, progressive scoliosis was evident in the unfixed group, where a Cobb angle of 8.13 ± 2.03° was measured. The fixed group demonstrated significantly less scoliosis, with a Cobb angle measurement of 1.89 ± 0.75° (P = 0.0004). Similarly, a trend for less kyphosis was evident in the fixed group (7.33 ± 1.68°) compared with the unfixed group (10.13 ± 1.46°). Quantitative measurements of the degree of malalignment of the scaffolds were also significantly less in the fixed group (5 ± 1.23°) compared with the unfixed group (11 ± 2.82°) (P = 0.0143).
Radio-opaque barium sulfate allows for visualization of scaffolds in vivo using radiographic analysis. Spinal fixation was shown to prevent scoliosis, reduce kyphosis, and reduce scaffold malalignment within the transected rat spinal cord. Using a highly optimized model will increase the potential for finding a therapy for restoring function to the injured cord.
PMCID: PMC2773001  PMID: 19011531
spine fixation; transection spinal cord injury; scaffold; scoliosis
22.  Axon Regeneration through Scaffold into Distal Spinal Cord after Transection 
Journal of neurotrauma  2009;26(10):1759-1771.
We employed Fast Blue (FB) axonal tracing to determine the origin of regenerating axons after thoracic spinal cord transection injury in rats. Schwann cell (SC)-loaded, biodegradable, poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) scaffolds were implanted after transection. Scaffolds loaded with solubilized basement membrane preparation (without SCs) were used for negative controls, and nontransected cords were positive controls. One or 2 months after injury and scaffold implantation, FB was injected 0–15 mm caudal or about 5 mm rostral to the scaffold. One week later, tissue was harvested and the scaffold and cord sectioned longitudinally (30 μm) on a cryostat. Trans-scaffold labeling of neuron cell bodies was identified with confocal microscopy in all cell-transplanted groups. Large (30–50 μm diameter) neuron cell bodies were predominantly labeled in the ventral horn region. Most labeled neurons were seen 1–10 mm rostral to the scaffold, although some neurons were also labeled in the cervical cord. Axonal growth occurred bidirectionally after cord transection, and axons regenerated up to 14 mm beyond the PLGA scaffolds and into distal cord. The extent of FB labeling was negatively correlated with distance from the injection site to the scaffold. Electron microscopy showed myelinated axons in the transverse sections of the implanted scaffold 2 months after implantation. The pattern of myelination, with extracellular collagen and basal lamina, was characteristic of SC myelination. Our results show that FB labeling is an effective way to measure the origin of regenerating axons.
PMCID: PMC2763055  PMID: 19413501
axonal tracing; biodegradable polymers; Fast Blue; Schwann cells; spinal cord injury
23.  Synthesis, Material Properties and Biocompatibility of a Novel Self-Crosslinkable Poly(caprolactone fumarate) as an Injectable Tissue Engineering Scaffold 
Biomacromolecules  2005;6(5):2503-2511.
A novel self-crosslinkable and biodegradable macromer poly(caprolactone fumarate) (PCLF) has been developed for guided bone regeneration. This macromer is a copolymer of fumaryl chloride, which contains double bonds for in-situ crosslinking, and poly(ε-caprolactone) that has a flexible chain to facilitate self-crosslinkability. PCLF was characterized with Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, 1H and 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and gel permeation chromatography (GPC). Porous scaffolds were fabricated with sodium chloride particles as the porogen and a chemical initiation system. The PCLF scaffolds were characterized with scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). The cytotoxicity and in vivo biocompatibility of PCLF were also assessed. Our results suggest that this novel copolymer, PCLF, is an injectable, self-crosslinkable, and biocompatible macromer that may be potentially used as a scaffold for tissue engineering applications.
PMCID: PMC2530909  PMID: 16153086

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