Scalable culture techniques to generate large numbers of purified human Schwann cells for clinical trials in human spinal cord and peripheral nerve injuries

Aisha Khan, Anthony Diaz, Adriana E. Brooks, S. Shelby Burks, Gagani Athauda, Patrick Wood, Yee Shuan Lee, Risset Silvera, Maxwell Donaldson, Yelena Pressman, Kim D. Anderson, Mary Bartlett Bunge, Damien D. Pearse, W. Dalton Dietrich, James D. Guest, Allan D. Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Schwann cells (SCs) have been shown to play an essential role in axon regeneration in both peripheral nerve injuries (PNIs) and spinal cord injuries (SCIs). The transplantation of SCs as an adjunctive therapy is currently under investigation in human clinical trials due to their regenerative capacity. Therefore, a reliable method for procuring large quantities of SCs from peripheral nerves is necessary. This paper presents a well-developed, validated, and optimized manufacturing protocol for clinical-grade SCs that are compliant with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs). METHODS The authors evaluated the SC culture manufacturing data from 18 clinical trial participants who were recruited for autologous SC transplantation due to subacute SCI (n = 7), chronic SCI (n = 8), or PNIs (n = 3). To initiate autologous SC cultures, a mean nerve length of 11.8 ± 3.7 cm was harvested either from the sural nerve alone (n = 17) or with the sciatic nerve (n = 1). The nerves were digested with enzymes and SCs were isolated and further expanded in multiple passages to meet the dose requirements for transplantation. RESULTS An average yield of 87.2 ± 89.2 million cells at P2 and 150.9 ± 129.9 million cells at P3 with high viability and purity was produced. Cell counts and rates of expansion increased with each subsequent passage from P0 to P3, with the largest rate of expansion between P2 and P3. Larger harvest nerve lengths correlated significantly with greater yields at P0 and P1 (p < 0.05). In addition, a viability and purity above 90% was sustained throughout all passages in nearly all cell products. CONCLUSIONS This study presents reliable CGMP-compliant manufacturing methods for autologous SC products that are suitable for regenerative treatment of patients with SCI, PNI, or other conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • CGMP
  • Current Good Manufacturing Practices
  • Schwann cells
  • cell manufacturing
  • clinical trials
  • peripheral nerve injury
  • spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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