The effect of microsphere delivered Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in a poly-lactic-co-glycolic-acid (PLGA) 85/15 nerve conduit bridging a 10mm rat sciatic nerve gap was assessed, comparing nine groups (n = 6): PLGA conduits filled with saline, saline and NGF, saline with blank microspheres; four different NGF microspheres (5, 20, 50, and 100 mg/ml); an autologous graft and sciatic nerve gap. Histomorphometry, retrograde tracing, electrophysiology, and functional outcomes were evaluated up to 16 weeks. The autologous graft showed the largest fascicular area (0.65 mm2) and had a significantly greater number of myelinated fibers (P < 0.0001). Electrophysiology showed Compound Muscle Action Potential (CMAP) recordings for the autologous graft returning at 6 weeks after nerve transection, reaching their highest amplitude of 3.6 mV at endpoint. No significant differences were found in functional evaluation between groups or between conduits with microspheres and the saline filled conduit. A PLGA 85/15 nerve conduit is capable of sustaining nerve regeneration. The microsphere delivery system does not interfere with regeneration.
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