Regrowth of axons into the distal spinal cord through a Schwann-cell-seeded mini-channel implanted into hemisected adult rat spinal cord

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Schwann cells (SCs) have been shown to be a key element in promoting axonal regeneration after being grafted into the central nervous system (CNS). In the present study, SC-supported axonal regrowth was tested in an adult rat spinal cord implantation model. This model is characterized by a right spinal cord hemisection at the eighth thoracic segment, implantation of a SC-containing mini-channel and restoration of cerebrospinal fluid circulation by suturing the dura. We demonstrate that a tissue cable containing grafted SCs formed an effective bridge between the two stumps of the hemicord 1 month after transplantation. Approximately 10,000 myelinated and unmyelinated axons (1:9) per cable were found at its midpoint. In addition to propriospinal axons and axons of peripheral nervous system (PNS) origin, axons from as many as 19 brainstem regions also grew into the graft without additional treatments. Most significantly, some regenerating axons in the SC grafts were able to penetrate through the distal graft-host interface to re-enter the host environment, as demonstrated by anterograde axonal labelling. These axons coursed toward, and then entered the grey matter where terminal bouton-like structures were observed. In channels containing no SCs, limited axonal growth was seen within the graft and no axons penetrated the distal interface. These findings further support the notion that SCs are strong promoters of axonal regeneration and that the mini-channel model may be appropriate for further investigation of axonal re-entry, synaptic reconnection and functional recovery following spinal cord injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1723-1740
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 1999



  • Axonal regeneration
  • Guidance channels
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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