Development of a regenerative porous PLCL nerve guidance conduit with swellable hydrogel-based microgrooved surface pattern via 3D printing

Hyun Su Lee, Eun Young Jeon, Jae Jun Nam, Ji Hun Park, In Cheul Choi, Soo Hyun Kim, Justin J. Chung, Kangwon Lee, Jong Woong Park, Youngmee Jung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Peripheral nerve injury causes severe loss of motor and sensory functions, consequently increasing morbidity in affected patients. An autogenous nerve graft is considered the current gold standard for reconstructing nerve defects and recovering lost neurological functions; however, there are certain limitations to this method, such as limited donor nerve supply. With advances in regenerative medicine, recent research has focused on the fabrication of tissue-engineered nerve grafts as promising alternatives to the autogenous nerve grafts. In this study, we designed a nerve guidance conduit using an electrospun poly(lactide-co-ε-caprolactone) (PLCL) membrane with a visible light-crosslinked gelatin hydrogel. The PLCL nanoporous membrane with permeability served as a flexible and non-collapsible epineurium for the nerve conduit; the inner-aligned gelatin hydrogel paths were fabricated via 3D printing and a photocrosslinking system. The resultant gelatin hydrogel with microgrooved surface pattern was established as a conducting guidance path for the effective regeneration of axons and served as a reservoir that can incorporate and release bioactive molecules. From in vivo performance tests using a rat sciatic nerve defect model, our PLCL/gelatin conduit demonstrated successful axonal regeneration, remyelination capacities and facilitated functional recovery. Hence, the PLCL/gelatin conduit developed in this study is a promising substitute for autogenous nerve grafts. Statement of significance: Nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) are developed as promising recovery techniques for bridging peripheral nerve defects. However, there are still technological limitations including differences in the structures and components between natural peripheral nerve and NGCs. In this study, we designed a NGC composed of an electrospun poly(lactide-co-ε-caprolactone) (PLCL) membrane and 3D printed inner gelatin hydrogel to serve as a flexible and non-collapsible epineurium and a conducting guidance path, respectively, to mimic the fascicular structure of the peripheral nerve. In particular, in vitro cell tests clearly showed that gelatin hydrogel could guide the cells and function as a reservoir that incorporate and release nerve growth factor. From in vivo performance tests, our regenerative conduit successfully led to axonal regeneration with effective functional recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-232
Number of pages14
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
H.S. Lee, E.Y. Jeon, and J.J. Nam contributed equally to this work. This research was supported by the Translational Research Grant of the Korea University Medicine and Korea Institute of Science and Technology (K2107321 and 2E3115I) and grants of the Korea Regenerative Medical Technology Development Fund and the Nano•Material Technology Development Program (2021M3E5E5096098 and NRF2018M3A7B4071106) through the National Research Foundation of Korea funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022


  • 3D printing
  • Nerve guidance conduit
  • PLCL nanoporous membrane
  • Peripheral nerve regeneration
  • Visible light-crosslinked gelatin hydrogel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


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