The olfactory nerve differs from cranial nerves III-XII in that it contains a specialised type of glial cell, called 'olfactory ensheathing cell' (OEC), rather than Schwann cells. In addition, functional neurogenesis persists postnatally in the olfactory system, i.e. the primary olfactory pathway continuously rebuilds itself throughout adult life. The presence of OECs in the olfactory nerve is thought to be critical to this continuous growth process. Because of this intrinsic capacity for self-repair, the mammalian olfactory system has proved as a useful model in neuroregeneration studies. In addition, OECs have been used in transplantation studies to promote pathway regeneration elsewhere in the nervous system. Here, we have reviewed the parameters that allow for repair within the primary olfactory pathway and the role that OECs are thought to play in this process. We conclude that, in addition to intrinsic growth potential, the presence of an aligned substrate to the target structure is a fundamental prerequisite for appropriate restoration of connectivity with the olfactory bulb. Hence, strategies to promote regrowth of injured nerve pathways should incorporate usage of aligned, oriented substrates of OECs or other cellular conduits with additional intervention to boost neuronal cell body responses to injury and/or neutralisation of putative inhibitors.
|Journal||Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience|
|Publication status||Published - 2008|