Regrowth of lesioned retinal axons associated with the transplantation of schwann cells to the brachial region of the rat optic tract

M. Chen, A. R. Harvey, S. E. Dyson

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Attempts were made to enhance the regrowth of retinal axons which had been lesioned in the brachial region of the rat optic tract. Pieces of nitrocellulose paper (Millipore) were placed into the lesioned area between the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) and superior colliculus (SC) in 13- to 18-day-old Wistar rats. Five types of implant were used: (1) uncoated implants, (2) coated with Poly-l-lysine (PLL), (3) coated on one side with cortical astrocytes, (4) coated with tectal astrocytes and (5) coated with Schwann cells. About half the Schwann cell-covered implants were precoated with PLL. Schwann cell-coated implants (16–40 × 103 cells per implant) were placed with the cells lying on either the dorsal or ventral (inverted) surface of the paper. 5–7 weeks after surgery, eyes were injected with WGA-HRP, the animals were perfused and frozen or vibratome sections (40–50 μm) processed for TMB histochemistry. Selected sections containing retinal axons were osmicated and prepared for electron microscopic examination. 45 out of 86 implants were found attached to the caudal dLGN. A small number of retinal axons were found growing onto the rostral end of one uncoated implant, two PLL-coated implants and over the surface of 4 of the astrocyte-coated implants. The densest and most extensive growth was seen on the Schwann cell-coated implants. In 15 of the 30 animals with such implants attached to the dLGN, retinal axons were found regrowing for 50–1120 μm (mean 530 μum). In about half of these rats (8 out of 15), the regrowth involved relatively large numbers of optic axons which were sometimes densely packed together. In the subgroup of Schwann cell-coated implants where the cells were placed upwards, retinal axons regrew on the dorsal surface of the paper for more than 500 μm in 7 animals. Almost no growth was seen on the uncoated (ventral) surface of the implants. In the subgroup of inverted implants, where the Schwann cells were placed downwards, in 4 animals retinal axon regrowth was densest on the ventral surface and extended for 300–550 μm. In 3 cases, occasional axons were also seen on the dorsal implant surface. Myelin sheaths surrounding some of the regenerating axons had PNS characteristics, suggesting that they were formed by the implanted Schwann cells, but most of the myelin appeared to be of central origin. The data suggest that Schwann cells placed just caudal to the dLGN and adjacent to lesioned retinal axons can enhance and direct the regrowth of these axons in the rat optic tract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-248
Number of pages16
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number4-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1991
Externally publishedYes


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