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Eric M. Horn, Michael Beaumont, Xiao Zheng Shu, Adrian Harvey, Glenn D. Prestwich, Kris M. Horn, Alan R. Gibson, Mark C. Preul and Alyssa Panitch


Therapies that use bioactive materials as replacement extracellular matrices may hold the potential to mitigate the inhibition of regeneration observed after central nervous system trauma. Hyaluronic acid (HA), a nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan ubiquitous in all tissues, was investigated as a potential neural tissue engineering matrix.


Chick dorsal root ganglia were cultured in 3D hydrogel matrices composed of cross-linked thiol-modified HA or fibrin. Samples were cultured and images were acquired at 48-, 60-, and 192-hour time points. Images of all samples were analyzed at 48 hours of incubation to quantify the extent of neurite growth. Cultures in cross-linked thiolated HA exhibited more than a 50% increase in neurite length compared with fibrin samples. Furthermore, cross-linked thiolated HA supported neurites for the entire duration of the culture period, whereas fibrin cultures exhibited collapsed and degenerating extensions beyond 60 hours.

Two concentrations of the thiolated HA (0.5 and 1%) were then placed at the site of a complete thoracic spinal cord transection in rats. The ability of the polymer to promote regeneration was tested using motor evoked potentials, retrograde axonal labeling, and behavioral assessments. There were no differences in any of the parameters between rats treated with the polymer and controls.


The use of a cross-linked HA scaffold promoted robust neurite outgrowth. Although there was no benefit from the polymer in a rodent spinal cord injury model, the findings in this study represent an early step in the development of semisynthetic extracellular matrice scaffolds for the treatment of neuronal injury.

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Rachid Assina, Tejas Sankar, Nicholas Theodore, Sam P. Javedan, Alan R. Gibson, Kris M. Horn, Michael Berens, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Mark C. Preul


Axonal regeneration may be hindered following spinal cord injury (SCI) by a limited immune response and insufficient macrophage recruitment. This limitation has been partially surmounted in small-mammal models of SCI by implanting activated autologous macrophages (AAMs). The authors sought to replicate these results in a canine model of partial SCI.


Six dogs underwent left T-13 spinal cord hemisection. The AAMs were implanted at both ends of the lesion in 4 dogs, and 2 other dogs received sham implantations of cell media. Cortical motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were used to assess electrophysiological recovery. Functional motor recovery was assessed with a modified Tarlov Scale. After 9 months, animals were injected with wheat germ agglutinin–horseradish peroxidase at L-2 and killed for histological assessment.


Three of the 4 dogs that received AAM implants and 1 of the 2 negative control dogs showed clear recovery of MEP response. Behavioral assessment showed no difference in motor function between the AAM-treated and control groups. Histological investigation with an axonal retrograde tracer showed neither local fiber crossing nor significant uptake in the contralateral red nucleus in both implanted and negative control groups.


In a large-animal model of partial SCI treated with implanted AAMs, the authors saw no morphological or histological evidence of axonal regeneration. Although they observed partial electrophysiological and functional motor recovery in all dogs, this recovery was not enhanced in animals treated with implanted AAMs. Furthermore, there was no morphological or histological evidence of axonal regeneration in animals with implants that accounted for the observed recovery. The explanation for this finding is probably multifactorial, but the authors believe that the AAM implantation does not produce axonal regeneration, and therefore is a technology that requires further investigation before it can be clinically relied on to ameliorate SCI.