Summary: Recent efforts in scientific research in the field of peripheral nerve regeneration have been directed towards the development of artificial nerve guides. We have studied various materials with the aim of obtaining a biocompatible and biodegradable two layer guide for nerve repair. The candidate materials for use as an external layer for the nerve guides were poly(caprolactone) (PCL), a biosynthetic blend between PCL and chitosan (CS) and a synthesised poly(ester-urethane) (PU). Blending PCL, which is a biocompatible synthetic polymer, with a natural polymer enhanced the system biocompatibility and biomimetics, fastened the degradation rates and reduced the production costs. Various novel block poly(ester-urethane)s are being synthesised by our group with tailored properties for specific tissue engineering applications. One of these poly(ester-urethane)s, based on a low molecular weight poly(caprolactone) as the macrodiol, cycloesandimethanol as the chain extender and hexamethylene diisocyanate as the chain linker, was investigated for the production of melt extruded nerve guides. We studied natural polymers such as gelatin (G), poly(L-lysine) (PL) and blends between chitosan and gelatin (CS/G) as internal coatings for nerve guides. In vitro and in vivo tests were performed on PCL guides internally coated either with G or PL to determine the differences in the quality of nerve regeneration associated with the type of adhesion protein. CS/G natural blends combined the good cell adhesion properties of the protein phase with the ability to promote nerve regeneration of the polysaccharide phase. Natural blends were crosslinked both by physical and chemical crosslinking methods. In vitro neuroblast adhesion tests were performed on CS/G film samples, PCL/CS and PU guides internally coated with G to evaluate the ability of such materials towards nerve repair.
SEM image of a fractured section of a PCL melt extruded guide.