Stem cell-based approaches to improve nerve regeneration: Potential implications for reconstructive transplantation?

Saami Khalifian, Karim A. Sarhane, Markus Tammia, Zuhaib Ibrahim, Hai Quan Mao, Damon S. Cooney, Jaimie T. Shores, W. P.Andrew Lee, Gerald Brandacher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Reconstructive transplantation has become a viable option to restore form and function after devastating tissue loss. Functional recovery is a key determinant of overall success and critically depends on the quality and pace of nerve regeneration. Several molecular and cellbased therapies have been postulated and tested in preclinical animal models to enhance nerve regeneration. Schwann cells remain the mainstay of research focus providing neurotrophic support and signaling cues forregenerating axons. Alternative cell sources such as mesenchymal stem cells and adipose-derived stromal cells have also been tested in pre-clinical animal models and in clinical trials due to their relative ease of harvest, rapid expansion in vitro, minimal immunogenicity, and capacity to integrate and survive within host tissues, thereby overcoming many of the challenges faced by culturing of human Schwann cells and nerve allografting. Induced pluripotent stem cell-derived Schwann cells are of particular interest since they can provide abundant, patientspecific autologous Schwann cells. The majority of experimental evidence on cell-based therapies, however, has been generated using stem cell-seeded nerve guides that were developed to enhance nerve regeneration across ‘‘gaps’’ in neural repair. Although primary end-to-end repair is the preferred method of neurorrhaphy in reconstructive transplantation, mechanistic studies elucidating the principles of cell-based therapies from nerve guidance conduits will form the foundation of further research employing stem cells in end-to-end repair of donor and recipient nerves. This review presents key components of nerve regeneration in reconstructive transplantation and highlights the pre-clinical studies that utilize stem cells to enhance nerve regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalArchivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 27 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional recovery
  • Nerve regeneration
  • Reconstructive transplantation
  • Schwann cells
  • Stem cells
  • Vascularized composite allotransplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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