Facial nerve regeneration is limited in some clinical situations: in long grafts, by aged patients, and when the delay between nerve lesion and repair is prolonged. This deficient regeneration is due to the limited number of regenerating nerve fibers, their immaturity and the unresponsiveness of Schwann cells after a long period of denervation. This study proposes to apply glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) on facial nerve grafts via nerve guidance channels to improve the regeneration.
Two situations were evaluated: immediate and delayed grafts (repair 7 months after the lesion). Each group contained three subgroups: a) graft without channel, b) graft with a channel without neurotrophic factor; and c) graft with a GDNF-releasing channel. A functional analysis was performed with clinical observation of facial nerve function, and nerve conduction study at 6 weeks. Histological analysis was performed with the count of number of myelinated fibers within the graft, and distally to the graft. Central evaluation was assessed with Fluoro-Ruby retrograde labeling and Nissl staining.
This study showed that GDNF allowed an increase in the number and the maturation of nerve fibers, as well as the number of retrogradely labeled neurons in delayed anastomoses. On the contrary, after immediate repair, the regenerated nerves in the presence of GDNF showed inferior results compared to the other groups.
GDNF is a potent neurotrophic factor to improve facial nerve regeneration in grafts performed several months after the nerve lesion. However, GDNF should not be used for immediate repair, as it possibly inhibits the nerve regeneration. Laryngoscope, 2009