Schwann cell (SC) transplantation has been utilized for spinal cord repair and demonstrated to be a promising therapeutic strategy. In this study, we investigated the feasibility of combining SC transplantation with novel conduits to bridge the completely transected adult rat spinal cord. This is the first and initial study to evaluate the potential of using a fibrous piezoelectric polyvinylidene fluoride trifluoroethylene (PVDF-TrFE) conduit with SCs for spinal cord repair. PVDF-TrFE has been shown to enhance neurite growth in vitro and peripheral nerve repair in vivo. In this study, SCs adhered and proliferated when seeded onto PVDF-TrFE scaffolds in vitro. SCs and PVDF-TrFE conduits, consisting of random or aligned fibrous inner walls, were transplanted into transected rat spinal cords for 3 weeks to examine early repair. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)+ astrocyte processes and GFP (green fluorescent protein)-SCs were interdigitated at both rostral and caudal spinal cord/SC transplant interfaces in both types of conduits, indicative of permissivity to axon growth. More noradrenergic/DβH+ (dopamine-beta-hydroxylase) brainstem axons regenerated across the transplant when greater numbers of GFAP+ astrocyte processes were present. Aligned conduits promoted extension of DβH+ axons and GFAP+ processes farther into the transplant than random conduits. Sensory CGRP+ (calcitonin gene-related peptide) axons were present at the caudal interface. Blood vessels formed throughout the transplant in both conduits. This study demonstrates that PVDF-TrFE conduits harboring SCs are promising for spinal cord repair and deserve further investigation. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2017;114: 444–456.
- Schwann cells
- aligned fibers
- spinal cord injury
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology