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Keywords:

  • nerve tissue engineering;
  • Schwann cell cultures;
  • extracelluar matrices;
  • growth factors;
  • scaffolds

Abstract

Driven by enormous clinical need, interest in peripheral nerve regeneration has become a prime focus of research and area of growth within the field of tissue engineering. While using autologous donor nerves for bridging peripheral defects remains today's gold standard, it remains associated with high donor site morbidity and lack of full recovery. This dictates research towards the development of biomimetic constructs as alternatives. Based on current concepts, this review summarizes various approaches including different extracellular martices, scaffolds, and growth factors that have been shown to promote migration and proliferation of Schwann cells. Since neither of these concepts in isolation is enough, although each is gaining increased interest to promote nerve regeneration, various combinations will need to be identified to strike a harmonious balance. Additional factors that must be incorporated into tissue engineered nerve constructs are also unknown and warrant further research efforts. It seems that future directions may allow us to determine the “missing link”.