, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 161-172

Ultrastructural and morphometric analysis of long-term peripheral nerve regeneration through silicone tubes

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Light and electron microscopy were used to investigate long-term regeneration in peripheral nerves regenerating across a 10 mm gap through silicone tubes. Schwann cells and axons co-migrated behind an advancing front of fibroblasts, bridging the 10 mm gap between 28 and 35 days following nerve transection. Myelination of regenerated fibres started between 14 and 21 days after transection and occurred in a manner similar to that reported during development. Although these early events were successful in producing morphologically normal-appearing regenerated fibres, complete maturation of many of these fibres was never achieved. Axonal distortion by neurofilaments, axonal degeneration and secondary demyelination were seen at 56 days following nerve transection. These changes progressed in severity with time as more axons advanced through the distal stump towards their peripheral target. Since regeneration occurs in the absence of endoneurial tubes, and because constrictive forces act on the nerve during regeneration, we suggest that these extrinsic factors limit the successful advancement of axons through the distal stump to their target organ.