S. Stokols, J. Sakamoto, D. Welker, T. Holt, J. Weiss, M. Tuszynski
While several strategies can stimulate axonal regeneration within a site of spinal cord injury, the growth of axons is generally disorganized and random. Biocompatible scaffolds that guide and maintain the native organization of axons regenerating through an injury site could be of importance in enhancing recovery of the nervous system after injury. Here we report a novel fabrication process for templated agarose nerve guidance scaffolds composed of uniaxial channels of precise diameter and wall thickness extending through their full length. When tested in an in vivo model of spinal cord injury, scaffolds exhibit excellent integration with host tissue and support linear axonal growth through their channels. Further, when loaded with bone marrow stromal cells genetically engineered to secrete brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the number of linear penetrating axons is significantly enhanced. The templating process can be useful in fabricating nerve guidance scaffolds for both central and peripheral nerve injuries, or any materials application requiring a precise array of linearly oriented channels.
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