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Functional nerve guidance conduit for the rapid treatment of peripheral nerve injuries

A collagen-based nerve guidance conduit containing functional Schwann cell precursor-like cells derived from stem cells for the rapid treatment of peripheral nerve injuries. 


 Technology Overview:
A peripheral nerve injury (PNI) occurs in approximately 3% of all trauma patients. While treatment options for PNIs have improved with advances in microsurgical techniques and development of nerve guidance conduits, less than 50% of PNIs show full functional recovery. The current gold standard of treatment for PNI is the use of nerve autografts, which is further limited by the availability of nerve sources, donor/recipient mismatch, and severe donor?site morbidity associated with secondary surgical procedure.

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.


Treatment of peripheral nerve injuries 



  • Fewer donor/recipient mismatch issues expected
  • Enhanced capability to differentiate into Schwann-like cells
  • Shorter time interval for differentiation into Schwann-like cells
  • Mesenchymal stem cells from gingiva are more proliferative than those from bone marrow


Stage of Development: 
Proof of concept demonstrated in rats 


Intellectual Property: 
Provisional application filed


Reference Media: 


Desired Partnerships: 

  1. License
  2. Co-development

Docket # 19-9008


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Melissa Kelly
Associate Director
University of Pennsylvania
Anh Le
Qunzhou Zhang