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Journal of Neural Transplantation and Plasticity
Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 39-49

Peripheral Nerve Transplantation: The Effects of Predegenerated Grafts and Immunosuppression

Department of Orthopaedics RK-10, University of Washington, 1959 N.E. Pacific Street, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA

Copyright © 1992 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Research involving nerve transplantation has shown that tissue rejection limits the neurologic recovery unless the host is immunosuppressed. This study investigates an alternative to permanent or temporary immunosuppression using a rat model with nerve transplants from Brown- Norway rat donors to bridge defects in the sciatic nerve of Lewis rat recipients as these two inbred strains differ at both major and minor histocompatibility loci.The specific aim of this study was to evaluate if predegenerated nerve grafts decreased the tissue rejection and improved the neurologic recovery of animals with allogenic nerve grafts to avoid the problems associated with either short- or long-term immunosuppression. The animals in the experimental groups received cyclosporin-A, predegencrated grafts, both, or neither. The predegenerated grafts were produced by division of the nerve three weeks prior to grafting to allow for Wallerian degeneration to occur. The outcome was assessed by measurements stressing functional recovery (sensory testing, gait analysis, joint flexion contracture), studies of muscle recovery (muscle weight and hydroxyproline concentration), and histologic studies (axonal counts and inflammatory reaction). The animals receiving the predegenerated grafts without cyclosporin did have an improved recovery (joint flexion contracture 35° ± 8 ° and hydroxyproline ratio 1.52 ± 0.16) as compared to the joint flexion contractures and hydroxyproline ratios of the allograft group of animals without either cyclosporin- A or pretreatment and the ungrafted control group (47° ± 18°, 1.68 ± 0.34, and 53° ±15° ,4.50 ± 0.27, respectively, p < 0.01). However, all the isograft groups and allograft groups with cyclosporin-A, regardless of whether the graft had been predegenerated or not, had greater neurologic recovery than the allograft group with predegenerated grafts but without cyclosporin-A by the same parameters (p < 0.01). Allograft groups with short-term immunosuppression with cyclosporin-A did as well as isograft groups, and isograft groups with predegenerated grafts did not do any better than isografts without pretreatment (p <0.01).

Clinical Relevance: Predegenerated nerve allografts will allow for greater neurologic recovery than standard nerve allografts avoiding the complications of immunosuppression, but the level of recovery is less than that of recipients of nerve allografts with immunosuppression. Nerve transplants would avoid the problems of neurologic deficits at the donor site and allow multiple large deficits to be treated easily.