Extracellular matrix components in peripheral nerve repair: how to affect neural cellular response and nerve regeneration?
Peripheral nerve injury is a serious problem affecting significantly patients' life. Autografts are the "gold standard" used to repair the injury gap, however, only 50% of patients fully recover from the trauma. Artificial conduits are a valid alternative to repairing peripheral nerve. They aim at confining the nerve environment throughout the regeneration process, and providing guidance to axon outgrowth. Biocompatible materials have been carefully designed to reduce inflammation and scar tissue formation, but modifications of the inner lumen are still required in order to optimise the scaffolds. Biomicking the native neural tissue with extracellular matrix fillers or coatings showed great promises in repairing longer gaps and extending cell survival. In addition, extracellular matrix molecules provide a platform to further bind growth factors that can be released in the system over time. Alternatively, conduit fillers can be used for cell transplantation at the injury site, reducing the lag time required for endogenous Schwann cells to proliferate and take part in the regeneration process. This review provides an overview on the importance of extracellular matrix molecules in peripheral nerve repair.