Experimental and clinical evidence for use of decellularized nerve allografts in peripheral nerve gap reconstruction

Mark Szynkaruk, Stephen W.P. Kemp, Matthew D. Wood, Tessa Gordon, Gregory H. Borschel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Despite the inherent capability for axonal regeneration, recovery following severe peripheral nerve injury remains unpredictable and often very poor. Surgeons typically use autologous nerve grafts taken from the patient's own body to bridge long nerve gaps. However, the amount of suitable nerve available from a given patient is limited, and using autologous grafts leaves the patient with scars, numbness, and other forms of donor-site morbidity. Therefore, surgeons and engineers have sought off-the-shelf alternatives to the current practice of autologous nerve grafting. Decellularized nerve allografts have recently become available as an alternative to traditional nerve autografting. In this review, we provide a critical analysis comparing the advantages and limitations of the three major experimental models of decellularized nerve allografts: cold preserved, freeze-thawed, and chemical detergent based. Current tissue engineering-based techniques to optimize decellularized nerve allografts are discussed. We also evaluate studies that supplement decellularized nerve grafts with exogenous factors such as Schwann cells, stem cells, and growth factors to both support and enhance axonal regeneration through the decellularized allografts. In examining the advantages and disadvantages of the studies of decellularized allografts, we suggest that experimental methods, including the animal model, graft length, follow-up time, and outcome measures of regenerative progress and success be consolidated. Finally, all clinical studies in which decellularized nerve allografts have been used to bridge nerve gaps in patients are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-96
Number of pages14
JournalTissue Engineering - Part B: Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013


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