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  • Author or Editor: Matthew R MacEwan x
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Matthew R. MacEwan, Paul Gamble, Manu Stephen and Wilson Z. Ray


Electrical stimulation of peripheral nerve tissue has been shown to accelerate axonal regeneration. Yet existing methods of applying electrical stimulation to injured peripheral nerves have presented significant barriers to clinical translation. In this study, the authors examined the use of a novel implantable wireless nerve stimulator capable of simultaneously delivering therapeutic electrical stimulation of injured peripheral nerve tissue and providing postoperative serial assessment of functional recovery.


Flexible wireless stimulators were fabricated and implanted into Lewis rats. Thin-film implants were used to deliver brief electrical stimulation (1 hour, 20 Hz) to sciatic nerves after nerve crush or nerve transection-and-repair injuries.


Electrical stimulation of injured nerves via implanted wireless stimulators significantly improved functional recovery. Brief electrical stimulation was observed to increase the rate of functional recovery after both nerve crush and nerve transection-and-repair injuries. Wireless stimulators successfully facilitated therapeutic stimulation of peripheral nerve tissue and serial assessment of nerve recovery.


Implantable wireless stimulators can deliver therapeutic electrical stimulation to injured peripheral nerve tissue. Implantable wireless nerve stimulators might represent a novel means of facilitating therapeutic electrical stimulation in both intraoperative and postoperative settings.

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Matthew R. MacEwan, Michael R. Talcott, Daniel W. Moran and Eric C. Leuthardt


Instrumented spinal fusion continues to exhibit high failure rates in patients undergoing multilevel lumbar fusion or pseudarthrosis revision; with Grade II or higher spondylolisthesis; or in those possessing risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, or metabolic disorders. Direct current (DC) electrical stimulation of bone growth represents a unique surgical adjunct in vertebral fusion procedures, yet existing spinal fusion stimulators are not optimized to enhance interbody fusion. To develop an advanced method of applying DC electrical stimulation to promote interbody fusion, a novel osteogenic spinal system capable of routing DC through rigid instrumentation and into the vertebral bodies was fabricated. A pilot study was designed to assess the feasibility of osteogenic instrumentation and compare the ability of osteogenic instrumentation to promote successful interbody fusion in vivo to standard spinal instrumentation with autograft.


Instrumented, single-level, posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) with autologous graft was performed at L4–5 in adult Toggenburg/Alpine goats, using both osteogenic spinal instrumentation (plus electrical stimulation) and standard spinal instrumentation (no electrical stimulation). At terminal time points (3 months, 6 months), animals were killed and lumbar spines were explanted for radiographic analysis using a SOMATOM Dual Source Definition CT Scanner and high-resolution Microcat II CT Scanner. Trabecular continuity, radiodensity within the fusion mass, and regional bone formation were examined to determine successful spinal fusion.


Quantitative analysis of average bone density in pedicle screw beds confirmed that electroactive pedicle screws used in the osteogenic spinal system focally enhanced bone density in instrumented vertebral bodies. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of high-resolution CT scans of explanted lumbar spines further demonstrated that the osteogenic spinal system induced solid bony fusion across the L4–5 disc space as early as 6 weeks postoperatively. In comparison, inactive spinal instrumentation with autograft was unable to promote successful interbody fusion by 6 months postoperatively.


Results of this study demonstrate that novel osteogenic spinal instrumentation supports interbody fusion through the focal delivery of DC electrical stimulation. With further technical development and scientific/clinical validation, osteogenic spinal instrumentation may offer a unique alternative to biological scaffolds and pharmaceutical adjuncts used in spinal fusion procedures.

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Christina K. Magill, Amy M. Moore, Ying Yan, Alice Y. Tong, Matthew R. MacEwan, Andrew Yee, Ayato Hayashi, Daniel A. Hunter, Wilson Z. Ray, Philip J. Johnson, Alexander Parsadanian, Terence M. Myckatyn and Susan E. Mackinnon


Glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has potent survival effects on central and peripheral nerve populations. The authors examined the differential effects of GDNF following either a sciatic nerve crush injury in mice that overexpressed GDNF in the central or peripheral nervous systems (glial fibrillary acidic protein [GFAP]–GDNF) or in the muscle target (Myo-GDNF).


Adult mice (GFAP-GDNF, Myo-GDNF, or wild-type [WT] animals) underwent sciatic nerve crush and were evaluated using histomorphometry and muscle force and power testing. Uninjured WT animals served as controls.


In the sciatic nerve crush, the Myo-GDNF mice demonstrated a higher number of nerve fibers, fiber density, and nerve percentage (p < 0.05) at 2 weeks. The early regenerative response did not result in superlative functional recovery. At 3 weeks, GFAP-GDNF animals exhibit fewer nerve fibers, decreased fiber width, and decreased nerve percentage compared with WT and Myo-GDNF mice (p < 0.05). By 6 weeks, there were no significant differences between groups.


Peripheral delivery of GDNF resulted in earlier regeneration following sciatic nerve crush injuries than that with central GDNF delivery. Treatment with neurotrophic factors such as GDNF may offer new possibilities for the treatment of peripheral nerve injury.