When a peripheral nerve is severed, continuity can be restored surgically with a nerve graft. As an alternative to autografting, allografting with processed human donor nerve is now a readily available option for nerve repair. The collection and processing of cadaveric nerves involves inevitable delays and requires timely procedures. The aims of the present study are to examine the growth-promoting potential of live human nerve explants when exposed to incubation conditions and nerve degeneration ex vivo. Fresh human nerves were placed in a stasis transport medium (L-15) at 4 °C for two days with and without additional time in physiological tissue culture conditions. Nerve explant morphology was assessed by histology and immunohistochemistry, and axon growth-promoting potential by a cryoculture bioassay. Results showed that the growth-promoting potential of human nerve explants increased significantly after two days in the stasis Transport condition and even more so after two days in tissue culture. Ex vivo incubations for more than two days in either stasis or physiological conditions were not beneficial and resulted in some loss of cellular integrity. These findings indicate that naturally occurring degenerative processes improve the growth-promoting properties of live nerve explants in stasis and physiological conditions for up to two days but should be limited thereafter to avoid any further tissue remodeling.
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