Plastic Surgery Research Council
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Presenter: Andrew Li, MD
Co-Authors: Buck A; Hokugo A; Stupp S; Jarrahy R

Background: Traumatic peripheral nerve injuries can result in lifelong disability. Primary nerve repair is used for short nerve defects. Autologous nerve can be used in longer defects but creates donor site morbidity. Nerve conduits lack an aligned internal scaffold to support and guide axonal regeneration. Peptide amphiphiles (PA) can self-assemble into aligned nanofibers and promote peripheral nerve regeneration in vivo. Bioactive epitopes IKVAV (Ile-Lys-Val-Ala-Val) and RGDS (Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser) can be incorporated into PA nanofibers and can promote cell adhesion, growth, and migration. There are no studies to date that examine the ability of PA nanofibers to support the regeneration of injured nerves that supply the musculoskeletal system. In this preliminary study, we investigate the viability of rat Schwann cells after incorporation into PA gels.

Methods: PA nanofibers were synthesized by Stupp et al. PAs were aqueously dissolved, and rat Schwann cells (cell line RT4-D6P2T) were incorporated into the PA solution. The PA/cell suspension was then pipetted in 40uL aliquots into salt solution containing CaCl2, immediately forming a solid gel. Gelling solution was then replaced with Dulbecco's Modified Eagle's Medium (DMEM) with 10% fetal bovine serum, and changed every 3 days. Control collagen gels with incorporated Schwann cells and 2 dimensional Schwann cell cultures were made at the same density. WST-1 assays were performed at days 1 and 7 and 11.

Results: Schwann cells demonstrated significantly increasing proliferation after embedding in PA gels from days 1-11. Control collagen gel and cell culture also demonstrated increasing growth from day 1 to day 11.

Conclusion: Schwann cells embedded in PA gels exhibit increasing proliferation within PA gel for at least 11 days. These findings support the idea that Schwann cell-PA gel constructs are an effective candidate for an internal scaffold in nerve conduits. Currently we are investigating whether or not the inclusion of bioactive epitopes leads to increased neurite outgrowth and neuronal migration.

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