Cell therapy is a promising candidate among biological or technological innovations sought to augment microsurgical techniques in peripheral nerve repair. This report describes long-term functional regenerative effects of cell therapy in the rat injury model with a focus on sensory recovery.
Schwann cells were derived from isogenic nerve or skin precursor cells and injected into the transected and immediately repaired sciatic nerve distal to the injury site. Sensory recovery was assessed at weeks 4, 7, and 10. Axonal regeneration was assessed at Week 11.
By Week 10, thermal sensitivity in cell therapy groups returned to a level indistinguishable from the baseline (p > 0.05). Immunohistochemistry at 11 weeks after injury showed improved regeneration of NF+ and IB4+ axons.
The results of this study show that cell therapy significantly improves thermal sensation and the number of regenerated sensory neurons at 11 weeks after injury. These findings contribute to the view of skin-derived stem cells as a reliable source of Schwann cells with therapeutic potential for functional recovery in damaged peripheral nerve.