Development of a bioengineered construct library to repair long nerve defects

2016 Pilot Project Read More


Principal Investigator: Matthew Wood (WashU Surgery)
Collaborator: Susan Mackinnon (WashU Surgery)


Damage to a peripheral nerve often results in a defect between the proximal and distal nerve stumps that cannot be directly repaired without excessive tension limiting regeneration. While a nerve autograft remains the “standard of care” for these defects, it has disadvantages for the patient. However, adequate functional recovery after a nerve injury reconstructed with a long nerve autograft alternative (nerve construct) is rarely achieved. This outcome is due to few axons regenerating across the construct. This project utilizes bioengineering techniques to tailor the material properties of nerve to develop clinically-relevant constructs to improve nerve regeneration. In addition, this approach develops multiple variants of nerve constructs with tuned material properties yielding a library of constructs. This library will provide the ability to assess how material properties (mechanical and biological cues) impact nerve cell populations and signaling pathways during nerve regeneration.

Grants and Awards

“T cell roles in regeneration across nerve graft alternatives”
NIH/NINDS R01NS115960-01 (PI Matthew Wood)
Public Health Relevance Statement: PROJECT NARRATIVE Approximately 2-3% of trauma cases involve peripheral nerve damage. The treatment options for these injuries are limited, and clinical outcomes following surgical reconstructions can yield incomplete recovery, where estimates of adequate recovery are only achieved in 52% of cases. This project advances scientific knowledge on principles of nerve regeneration and functional recovery, where there is significant potential that the outcome of the research could lead to new therapies to improve the treatment of nerve injuries.


Pan D, Hunter DA, Schellhardt L, Jo S, Santosa KB, Larson EL, Fuchs AG, Snyder-Warwick AK, Mackinnon SE, Wood MD. The accumulation of T cells within acellular nerve allografts is length-dependent and critical for nerve regeneration. Exp Neurol. (2019) Aug; 318:216-231.

Pan D1, Mackinnon SE1, Wood MD1. Advances in the repair of segmental nerve injuries and trends in reconstruction. Muscle Nerve. (2019) Dec 27

Updated April 2021


Pilot project teams include Hope Center faculty members and others. For more about Hope Center faculty on this team, click below.

Matthew Wood

Susan Mackinnon


This pilot project is made possible by the Danforth Foundation Challenge Endowment.

Danforth Challenge Endowment