Decellularized peripheral nerve supports Schwann cell transplants and axon growth following spinal cord injury

Susana R. Cerqueira, Yee Shuan Lee, Robert C. Cornelison, Michaela W. Mertz, Rebecca A. Wachs, Christine E. Schmidt, Mary Bartlett Bunge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Schwann cell (SC) transplantation has been comprehensively studied as a strategy for spinal cord injury (SCI) repair. SCs are neuroprotective and promote axon regeneration and myelination. Nonetheless, substantial SC death occurs post-implantation, which limits therapeutic efficacy. The use of extracellular matrix (ECM)-derived matrices, such as Matrigel, supports transplanted SC survival and axon growth, resulting in improved motor function. Because appropriate matrices are needed for clinical translation, we test here the use of an acellular injectable peripheral nerve (iPN) matrix. Implantation of SCs in iPN into a contusion lesion did not alter immune cell infiltration compared to injury only controls. iPN implants were larger and contained twice as many SC-myelinated axons as Matrigel grafts. SC/iPN animals performed as well as the SC/Matrigel group in the BBB locomotor test, and made fewer errors on the grid walk at 4 weeks, equalizing at 8 weeks. The fact that this clinically relevant iPN matrix is immunologically tolerated and supports SC survival and axon growth within the graft offers a highly translational possibility for improving efficacy of SC treatment after SCI. To our knowledge, it is the first time that an injectable PN matrix is being evaluated to improve the efficacy of SC transplantation in SCI repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-185
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Axon growth
  • Decellularization
  • Injectable peripheral nerve
  • Schwann cells
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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