Background: Mesenchymal stem cells have the potential to produce neurotrophic growth factors and establish a supportive microenvironment for neural regeneration. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of undifferentiated and differentiated mesenchymal stem cells dynamically seeded onto decellularized nerve allografts on functional outcomes when used in peripheral nerve repair. Methods: In 80 Lewis rats, a 10-mm sciatic nerve defect was reconstructed with (1) autograft, (2) decellularized allograft, (3) decellularized allograft seeded with undifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells, or (4) decellularized allograft seeded with mesenchymal stem cells differentiated into Schwann cell-like cells. Nerve regeneration was evaluated over time by cross-sectional tibial muscle ultrasound measurements, and at 12 and 16 weeks by isometric tetanic force measurements, compound muscle action potentials, muscle mass, histology, and immunofluorescence analyses. Results: At 12 weeks, undifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells significantly improved isometric tetanic force measurement and compound muscle action potential outcomes compared to decellularized allograft alone, whereas differentiated mesenchymal stem cells significantly improved compound muscle action potential outcomes. The autografts outperformed both stem cell groups histologically at 12 weeks. At 16 weeks, functional outcomes normalized between groups. At both time points, the effect of undifferentiated versus differentiated mesenchymal stem cells was not significantly different. Conclusions: Undifferentiated and differentiated mesenchymal stem cells significantly improved functional outcomes of decellularized allografts at 12 weeks and were similar to autograft results in the majority of measurements. At 16 weeks, outcomes normalized as expected. Although differences between both cell types were not statistically significant, undifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells improved functional outcomes of decellularized nerve allografts to a greater extent and had practical benefits for clinical translation by limiting preparation time and costs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas