Dextran-based tube-guides for the regeneration of the rat sciatic nerve after neurotmesis injury†
In this work, dextran-based nerve tube-guides were prepared, characterized and used in a standardized animal model of neurotmesis injury. Non-porous and porous transparent tube-guides were obtained by photocrosslinking of two co-macromonomers based on dextran and poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL). Swelling capacity of the tube-guides ranged from 40–60% with no visible constriction of their inner diameter. In vitro hydrolytic degradation tests showed that the tube-guides maintained their structural integrity up to 6 months. The in vivo performance of the tube-guides was evaluated by entubulation of the rat sciatic nerve after a neurotmesis injury, with a 10 mm-gap between the nerve stumps. The results showed that the tube-guides were able to promote the regeneration of the nerve in a similar manner to what was observed with conventional techniques (nerve graft and end-to-end suture). Stereological analysis proved that nerve regeneration occurred, and both tube-guides presented fibre diameter and g-ratio closer to healthy sciatic nerves. The histomorphometric analysis of Tibialis anterior (TA) skeletal muscle showed decreased neurogenic atrophy in the porous tube-guides treated group, presenting measurements that are similar to the uninjured control.