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Zachary C. Gersey, S. Shelby Burks, Kim D. Anderson, Marine Dididze, Aisha Khan, W. Dalton Dietrich and Allan D. Levi


Long-segment injuries to large peripheral nerves present a challenge to surgeons because insufficient donor tissue limits repair. Multiple supplemental approaches have been investigated, including the use of Schwann cells (SCs). The authors present the first 2 cases using autologous SCs to supplement a peripheral nerve graft repair in humans with long-term follow-up data.


Two patients were enrolled in an FDA-approved trial to assess the safety of using expanded populations of autologous SCs to supplement the repair of long-segment injuries to the sciatic nerve. The mechanism of injury included a boat propeller and a gunshot wound. The SCs were obtained from both the sural nerve and damaged sciatic nerve stump. The SCs were expanded and purified in culture by using heregulin β1 and forskolin. Repair was performed with sural nerve grafts, SCs in suspension, and a Duragen graft to house the construct. Follow-up was 36 and 12 months for the patients in Cases 1 and 2, respectively.


The patient in Case 1 had a boat propeller injury with complete transection of both sciatic divisions at midthigh. The graft length was approximately 7.5 cm. In the postoperative period the patient regained motor function (Medical Research Council [MRC] Grade 5/5) in the tibial distribution, with partial function in peroneal distribution (MRC Grade 2/5 on dorsiflexion). Partial return of sensory function was also achieved, and neuropathic pain was completely resolved. The patient in Case 2 sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, with partial disruption of the tibial division of the sciatic nerve at the midthigh. The graft length was 5 cm. Postoperatively the patient regained complete motor function of the tibial nerve, with partial return of sensation. Long-term follow-up with both MRI and ultrasound demonstrated nerve graft continuity and the absence of tumor formation at the repair site.


Presented here are the first 2 cases in which autologous SCs were used to supplement human peripheral nerve repair in long-segment injury. Both patients had significant improvement in both motor and sensory function with correlative imaging. This study demonstrates preliminary safety and efficacy of SC transplantation for peripheral nerve repair.

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Joshua D. Burks, Katie L. Gant, James D. Guest, Aria G. Jamshidi, Efrem M. Cox, Kim D. Anderson, W. Dalton Dietrich, Mary Bartlett Bunge, Barth A. Green, Aisha Khan, Damien D. Pearse, Efrat Saraf-Lavi and Allan D. Levi


In cell transplantation trials for spinal cord injury (SCI), quantifiable imaging criteria that serve as inclusion criteria are important in trial design. The authors’ institutional experience has demonstrated an overall high rate of screen failures. The authors examined the causes for trial exclusion in a phase I, open-lab clinical trial examining the role of autologous Schwann cell intramedullary transplantation. Specifically, they reviewed the imaging characteristics in people with chronic SCI that excluded applicants from the trial, as this was a common cause of screening failures in their study.


The authors reviewed MRI records from 152 people with chronic (> 1 year) SCI who volunteered for intralesional Schwann cell transplantation but were deemed ineligible by prospectively defined criteria. Rostral-caudal injury lesion length was measured along the long axis of the spinal cord in the sagittal plane on T2-weighted MRI. Other lesion characteristics, specifically those pertaining to lesion cavity structure resulting in trial exclusion, were recorded.


Imaging records from 152 potential participants with chronic SCI were reviewed, 42 with thoracic-level SCI and 110 with cervical-level SCI. Twenty-three individuals (55%) with thoracic SCI and 70 (64%) with cervical SCI were not enrolled in the trial based on imaging characteristics. For potential participants with thoracic injuries who did not meet the screening criteria for enrollment, the average rostral-caudal sagittal lesion length was 50 mm (SD 41 mm). In applicants with cervical injuries who did not meet the screening criteria for enrollment, the average sagittal lesion length was 34 mm (SD 21 mm).


While screening people with SCI for participation in a cell transplantation clinical trial, lesion length or volume can exclude potential subjects who appear appropriate candidates based on neurological eligibility criteria. In planning future cell-based therapy trials, the limitations incurred by lesion size should be considered early due to the screening burden and impact on candidate selection.

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Paul Gigante, Michael M. McDowell, Samuel S. Bruce, Genevieve Chirelstein, Claudia A. Chiriboga, Joseph Dutkowsky, Elizabeth Fontana, Joshua Hyman, Heakyung Kim, Dean Morgan, Toni S. Pearson, Benjamin D. Roye, David P. Roye Jr., Patricia Ryan, Michael Vitale and Richard C. E. Anderson


Randomized clinical trials have established that lumbar selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) reduces lower-extremity tone and improves functional outcome in children with spastic cerebral palsy. Significant data exist to support a secondary effect on upper-extremity function in patients with upper-extremity spasticity. The effects of SDR on upper-extremity tone, however, are not well characterized. In this report, the authors sought to assess changes in upper-extremity tone in individual muscle groups after SDR and tried to determine if these changes could be predicted preoperatively.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 42 children who underwent SDR at Columbia University Medical Center/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian between 2005 and 2011. Twenty-five had upper-extremity spasticity. All underwent pre- and postoperative examination for measuring tone (Modified Ashworth Scale) and assessing functional outcome. Follow-up examinations with therapists were performed at least once at a minimum of 2 months postoperatively (mean 15 months).


In the upper extremities, 23 (92%) of 25 patients had improvements of at least 1 Ashworth point in 2 or more independent motor groups on the Modified Ashworth Scale, and 12 (71%) of 17 families surveyed reported increases in motor control or spontaneous movement. The mean Modified Ashworth Scale scores for all upper-extremity muscle groups demonstrated an improvement from 1.34 to 1.22 (p < 0.001). Patients with a mean preoperative upper-extremity tone of 1.25–1.75 were most likely to benefit from reduction in tone (p = 0.0019). Proximal and pronator muscle groups were most likely to demonstrate reduced tone.


In addition to improvements in lower-extremity tone and function, SDR has demonstrable effects on upper extremities. Greater than 90% of our patients with elevated upper-extremity tone demonstrated reduction in tone in at least 2 muscle groups postoperatively. Patients with a mean Modified Ashworth Scale upper-extremity score of 1.25–1.75 may encounter the greatest reduction in upper-extremity tone.