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Schwann cells are peripheral nervous system glial cells that make myelin around axons. Schwann cells play a critical role in repairing damage to the peripheral nervous system related to axonal regrowth during nerve repair and regeneration.
The Le group has developed a method of generating functionalized nerve guidance conduits for use in repairing PNIs. This method utilizes mesenchymal stem cells from gingiva tissue (GMSC) of a neural crest-origin and converts them into neural crest stem-like (NCSC) or Schwann cell precursor (SCP)-like cells encapsulated and cultured in 3D-collagen hydrogel.
Whereas nerve guidance conduits in combination with various types of supportive cells have previously been tested for repairing PNIs, their success has varied due to a lack of uniformity in their cellular makeup and matrix embedding. GMSC-laden collagen hydrogels offer an improved approach for direct conversion of GMSCs into NCSC/SCP-like cells with the capability to trans-migrate and integrate into the aligned wall matrix of natural nerve, forming a functionalized nerve guidance conduit with unique capability for PNI regeneration and functional recovery as demonstrated in the crush-injured rat sciatic nerve model.