High-strength magnetic fields were used to align collagen gel formed into 4-mm-diameter rods during the self-assembly of type I collagen monomers into fibrils. We developed an in vitro assay to study neurite elongation into the magnetically aligned collagen gel rods from dorsal root ganglia (DRG) explants placed onto one end of the rods. The depth of neurite elongation from chick embryo DRG neurons into these rods was found to be substantially greater than that observed in controls and increased with an increase in magnetic field strength, as did the collagen gel rod birefringence, indicative of collagen fibril alignment along the rod axis. Moreover, the axial bias of neurite elongation became more pronounced with an increase in magnetic field strength, presumably due to a contact guidance response of growth cones at the neurite tips. Coinvasion of Schwann cells from neonatal rat DRG was also studied in these assays using double immunolabeling. In the absence of serum, Schwann cells were highly associated with, and often trailed, elongating neurites. In the presence of serum, Schwann cells showed significantly higher rates of invasion and formed axially aligned chords reminiscent of bands of Bungner. These results may translate into an improved method of entubulation repair of transected peripheral nerves by directing and stimulating axonal growth through a tube filled with magnetically aligned collagen gel.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work has been supported by NSF/BES-9522758 (R.T.T.). NIH HD19950 (P.C.L.) is also gratefully acknowledged.
- Aligned collagen
- Collagen gel
- Contact guidance
- Magnetic alignment
- Nerve regeneration
- Schwann cell