Nerve growth factor enhances regeneration through silicone chambers

Keith M. Rich, Todd D. Alexander, Johnny C. Pryor, James P. Hollowell

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The effect of exogenous NGF on axonal growth across a gap between sectioned ends of a sciatic nerve within silicone chambers was examined in Sprague-Dawley rats. After nerve section and surgical implantation, silicone chambers were filled with either a 1 mg/ml nerve growth factor (NGF)/saline solution (experimental) or a normal saline solution (control). Four weeks after surgery, the regenerated nerves from within the silicone chambers were dissected and fixed for histological studies at both light microscopic and ultrastructural levels. Morphological analysis of the nerves showed no difference between the NGF-treated and control groups in the size of the regenerated nerves within the chambers or in the diameters of myelinated axons. Total myelinated axonal counts were determined from within the distal chamber. NGF significantly increased the number of myelinated axons that grew into the distal end of the chamber (2126 ± 437 NGF/saline; 1064 ± 268 saline; P < 0.05 Student's t test). Counts of the unmyelinated axons from the distal nerve segment from the two groups were not different. Myelin sheath thickness was 58% greater in the NGF-treated group compared with that in the saline group. There was no difference between the two groups in the size-frequency spectra of the diameters of the myelinated axons in the distal segment. The NGF/saline group showed a more mature-appearing regenerated nerve based on the percentage of myelinated axons, thickness of the myelin sheaths, and development of internal organization (e.g., amount of endoneurial collagen fibers, ensheathment of unmyelinated axons by Schwann cells, and interfascicular patterns). Thus, pharmacologic administration of exogenous NGF within a silicone chamber at the time of entubational nerve repair enhances regeneration of myelinated axons across the sectioned ends of a rat sciatic nerve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-170
Number of pages9
JournalExperimental Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1989


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