Artificial nerve guidance channels enhance the regenerative effectiveness in an injured peripheral nerve but the existing design so far has been limited to basic straight tubes simply guiding the growth to bridge the gap. Hence, one of the goals in development of more effective neuroprostheses is to create bidirectional highly selective neuro–electronic interface between a prosthetic device and the severed nerve. A step towards improving selectivity for both recording and stimulation have been made with some recent in vitro studies which showed that three-dimensional (3D) bifurcating microchannels can separate neurites growing on a planar surface and bring them into contact with individual electrodes. Since the growing axons in vivo have the innate tendency to group in bundles surrounded by connective tissue, one of the big challenges in neuro–prosthetic interface design is how to overcome it. Therefore, we performed experiments with 3D bifurcating guidance scaffolds implanted in the sciatic nerve of rats to test if this new channel architecture could trigger separation pattern of ingrowth also in vivo. Our results showed that this new method enabled the re-growth of neurites into channels with gradually diminished width (80, 40 and 20 µm) and facilitated the separation of the axonal bundles with 91% success. It seems that the 3D bifurcating scaffold might contribute towards conveying detailed neural control and sensory feedback to users of prosthetic devices, and thus could improve the quality of their daily life.
- BSS-Neurotechnology and cellular engineering
- in vivo testing
- Peripheral nerves