Author(s): Schmidt CE, Shastri VR, Vacanti JP, Langer R
Damage to peripheral nerves often cannot be repaired by the juxtaposition of the severed nerve ends. Surgeons have typically used autologous nerve grafts, which have several drawbacks including the need for multiple surgical procedures and loss of function at the donor site. As an alternative, the use of nerve guidance channels to bridge the gap between severed nerve ends is being explored. In this paper, the electrically conductive polymer--oxidized polypyrrole (PP)--has been evaluated for use as a substrate to enhance nerve cell interactions in culture as a first step toward potentially using such polymers to stimulate in vivo nerve regeneration. Image analysis demonstrates that PC-12 cells and primary chicken sciatic nerve explants attached and extended neurites equally well on both PP films and tissue culture polystyrene in the absence of electrical stimulation. In contrast, PC-12 cells interacted poorly with indium tin oxide (ITO), poly(L-lactic acid) (PLA), and poly(lactic acid-co-glycolic acid) surfaces. However, PC-12 cells cultured on PP films and subjected to an electrical stimulus through the film showed a significant increase in neurite lengths compared with ones that were not subjected to electrical stimulation through the film and tissue culture polystyrene controls. The median neurite length for PC-12 cells grown on PP and subjected to an electrical stimulus was 18.14 micron (n = 5643) compared with 9.5 micron (n = 4440) for controls. Furthermore, animal implantation studies reveal that PP invokes little adverse tissue response compared with poly(lactic acid-co-glycolic acid).