Peripheral nerve grafts in a spinal cord prosthesis result in regeneration and motor evoked potentials following spinal cord resection

Jonathan Nordblom, Jonas K E Persson, Mikael Svensson, Per Mattsson
Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience 2009, 27 (4): 285-95

PURPOSE: To evaluate whether a standardized nerve graft bridging of a spinal cord injury gap in a device with white to grey matter projections allows regeneration and electrophysiological contact from supraspinal centers to the leg, since previous studies using nerve grafts in combination with acidic fibroblast growth factor have been difficult to microsurgically reproduce.

METHODS: A moulded prosthesis containing twelve peripheral nerve grafts with estimated pre-set projections guiding white tracts to grey matter replaced a spinal cord resection gap at level T11 in adult rats. The animals were evaluated with electrophysiology, morphology, immunohistochemistry and functional scoring.

RESULTS: At six months postoperatively the grafts were found to be positioned at the desired locations, motor evoked potentials were detected in 80% of the animals subjected to nerve graft bridging. Morphology and immunohistochemical analysis revealed numerous de novo axons in the grafts, which possibly reached into the spinal cord on the other side.

CONCLUSION: Replacing the resected spinal cord with oblique peripheral nerve grafts results in spinal cord regeneration and positive motor evoked potential. Transplantation of nerve grafts organized in a prosthesis is re-producible, sustains desired projections and ensures transverse ends towards the spinal cord surface and may be useful in the future.

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