We have developed a new type of polymer/cell/matrix implant and tested whether it can promote the re growth of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) and other axons across surgically induced tissue defects in the CNS. The constructs, which consisted of 2-2.5-mm-long polycarbonate tubes filled with lens capsule-derived extracellular matrix coated with cultured neonatal Schwann cells, were implanted into lesion cavities made in the left optic tract (OT) of 18-21-day-old rats. In one group, to promote Schwann cell proliferation and perhaps also to stimulate axon regrowth, basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) was added to the lens capsule matrix prior to implantation. In another group, to determine whether application of growth factors to the somata of cells enhances the regrowth of distally injured axons, the neurotrophin NT-4/5 was injected into the eye contralateral to the OT lesion. NT-4/5 and bFGF treatments were combined in some rats. After medium-term (4-10 weeks) or long-term (15-20 weeks) survivals, axon growth into implants was assessed immunohistochemically using a neurofilament (RT97) antibody. RGC axons were visualized after injection of WGA/HRP into the right eye. Viable Schwann cells were present in implants at all times after transplantation. Large numbers of RT97(+) axone were consistently found within the bridging implants, often associated with the peripheral glia. Axons were traced up to 1.7 mm from the nearest CNS neuropil and there was immunohistochemical evidence of myelination by Schwann cells and by host oligodendrocytes. There were Fewer RGC axons in the implants, fibers growing up to 1.6 mm from the thalamus. Neither NT-4/5 nor bFGF, alone or in combination, significantly increased the extent of RCC axon growth within the implants. A group of OT-lesioned rats was implanted with polymer tubes filled with 2-2.5-mm-long pieces of predegenerate peripheral nerve. Surprisingly, polymer/cell/matrix constructs contained comparatively greater numbers of RGC and other axons and supported more extensive axon elongation. Thus, implants of this type may potentially be useful in bridging large tissue defects in the CNS.
|Publication status||Published - 2000|