Designing ideal conduits for peripheral nerve repair.
Nerve tubes, guides, or conduits are a promising alternative for autologous nerve graft repair. The first biodegradable empty single lumen or hollow nerve tubes are currently available for clinical use and are being used mostly in the repair of small-diameter nerves with nerve defects of < 3 cm. These nerve tubes are made of different biomaterials using various fabrication techniques. As a result these tubes also differ in physical properties. In addition, several modifications to the common hollow nerve tube (for example, the addition of Schwann cells, growth factors, and internal frameworks) are being investigated that may increase the gap that can be bridged. This combination of chemical, physical, and biological factors has made the design of a nerve conduit into a complex process that demands close collaboration of bioengineers, neuroscientists, and peripheral nerve surgeons. In this article the authors discuss the different steps that are involved in the process of the design of an ideal nerve conduit for peripheral nerve repair.
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