Modified Hyaluronic Acid-Laminin-Hydrogel as Luminal Filler for Clinically Approved Hollow Nerve Guides in a Rat Critical Defect Size Model.
Hollow nerve guidance conduits are approved for clinical use for defect lengths of up to 3 cm. This is because also in pre-clinical evaluation they are less effective in the support of nerve regeneration over critical defect lengths. Hydrogel luminal fillers are thought to improve the regeneration outcome by providing an optimized matrix inside bioartificial nerve grafts. We evaluated here a modified hyaluronic acid-laminin-hydrogel (M-HAL) as luminal filler for two clinically approved hollow nerve guides. Collagen-based and chitosan-based nerve guides were filled with M-HAL in two different concentrations and the regeneration outcome comprehensively studied in the acute repair rat sciatic nerve 15 mm critical defect size model. Autologous nerve graft (ANG) repair served as gold-standard control. At 120 days post-surgery, all ANG rats demonstrated electrodiagnostically detectable motor recovery. Both concentrations of the hydrogel luminal filler induced improved regeneration outcome over empty nerve guides. However, neither combination with collagen- nor chitosan-based nerve guides resulted in functional recovery comparable to the ANG repair. In contrast to our previous studies, we demonstrate here that M-HAL slightly improved the overall performance of either empty nerve guide type in the critical defect size model.