Biofabrication techniques have endeavored to improve the regeneration of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), but nothing has surpassed the performance of current clinical practices. However, these current approaches have intrinsic limitations that compromise patient care. The “gold standard” autograft provides the best outcomes but requires suitable donor material, while implantable hollow nerve guide conduits (NGCs) can only repair small nerve defects. This review places emphasis on approaches that create structural cues within a hollow NGC lumen in order to match or exceed the regenerative performance of the autograft. An overview of the PNS and nerve regeneration is provided. This is followed by an assessment of reported devices, divided into three major categories: isotropic hydrogel fillers, acting as unstructured interluminal support for regenerating nerves; fibrous interluminal fillers, presenting neurites with topographical guidance within the lumen; and patterned interluminal scaffolds, providing 3D support for nerve growth via structures that mimic native PNS tissue. Also presented is a critical framework to evaluate the impact of reported outcomes. While a universal and versatile nerve repair strategy remains elusive, outlined here is a roadmap of past, present, and emerging fabrication techniques to inform and motivate new developments in the field of peripheral nerve regeneration.
- nerve guides
- peripheral nerve regeneration
- structural cues