Electrospun Fibers as Substrates for Peripheral Nerve Regeneration

  • Jörg MeyEmail author
  • Gary Brook
  • Dorothée Hodde
  • Andreas Kriebel
Part of the Advances in Polymer Science book series (POLYMER, volume 246)


Since axonal regeneration is possible in the peripheral nervous system, lesions can be treated by suturing disconnected nerve stumps or, when a lesion-induced gap must be bridged, by grafting an autologous nerve. However, nerve transplantations require multiple operations and cause a sensory deficit at the donor site. It is therefore desirable to develop artificial conduits for nerve regeneration as alternatives to the autograft. A core concept for the design of such implants is the incorporation of orientated nanofibers.

Artificial implants have to promote and guide axonal growth, the migration of Schwann cells, and they must not cause excessive inflammatory reactions. With hollow tubes, which are already used as nerve bridges in clinical studies, it is not possible to achieve regeneration over distances much larger than 30 mm. For this purpose, biocompatible tubes are being developed that contain orientated electrospun fibers consisting of a range of natural or synthetic materials. More recently, artificial guidance materials have been endowed with biologically active molecules. Extracellular matrix proteins or synthetic peptides that activate integrin receptors have been coupled to electrospun fibers. Other approaches adopted gradients of neurotrophins or incorporate living cells. One of the long-term goals of this research is to develop cell-free artificial implants that become integrated at the lesion site to the extent that they become populated by migrating host glia and allow a similar degree of regeneration that is supported by the autologous nerve.


Artificial implants Biomaterials Electrospinning Extracellular matrix Growth factors Peripheral nerve Regeneration 



Brain-derived neurotrophic factor


Cell adhesion molecule


Central nervous system


Ciliary neurotrophic factor


Dorsal root ganglion


Extracellular matrix


Extended poly(tetrafluoroethylene)


Erythroblastic leukemia viral oncogen (epidermal growth factor receptor family)


Fibroblast growth factor


Glial-derived neurotrophic factor


Receptor of GDNF-family ligands


Glial growth factor


Insulin-like growth factor




Leukemia inhibitory factor


Nerve growth factor








Poly(caprolactone-co-ethyl ethylene phosphate)


Poly(glycolic acid)


Poly(hydroxybutyric acid)


Poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate)


Poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate-co-methyl methacrylate)


Poly(lactic acid); the d- and l-isomers are often referred to as PDLA, PLLA, respectively


Poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)


Peripheral nerve


Peripheral nervous system






Star-shaped poly(ethylene glycol)


Signal transducer and activator of transcription


Transforming growth factor


Tyrosine kinase/tropomyosin receptor kinase (neurotrophin receptor)


Vascular endothelial growth factor



A research project to develop an artificial nerve implant, conducted by JM and GB, is supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (ME 1261/11-1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jörg Mey
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gary Brook
    • 3
  • Dorothée Hodde
    • 3
  • Andreas Kriebel
    • 2
  1. 1.Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos, SESCAMToledoSpain
  2. 2.Institut für Biologie IIRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  3. 3.Institut für NeuropathologieRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany

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