Departmental Papers (Dental)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

npj Regenerative Medicine





Start Page

Article number 59




Achieving a satisfactory functional recovery after severe peripheral nerve injuries (PNI) remains one of the major clinical challenges despite advances in microsurgical techniques. Nerve autografting is currently the gold standard for the treatment of PNI, but there exist several major limitations. Accumulating evidence has shown that various types of nerve guidance conduits (NGCs) combined with post-natal stem cells as the supportive cells may represent a promising alternative to nerve autografts. In this study, gingiva-derived mesenchymal stem cells (GMSCs) under 3D-culture in soft collagen hydrogel showed significantly increased expression of a panel of genes related to development/differentiation of neural crest stem-like cells (NCSC) and/or Schwann cell precursor-like (SCP) cells and associated with NOTCH3 signaling pathway activation as compared to their 2D-cultured counterparts. The upregulation of NCSC-related genes induced by 3D-collagen hydrogel was abrogated by the presence of a specific NOTCH inhibitor. Further study showed that GMSCs encapsulated in 3D-collagen hydrogel were capable of transmigrating into multilayered extracellular matrix (ECM) wall of natural NGCs and integrating well with the aligned matrix structure, thus leading to biofabrication of functionalized NGCs. In vivo, implantation of functionalized NGCs laden with GMSC-derived NCSC/SCP-like cells (designated as GiSCs), significantly improved the functional recovery and axonal regeneration in the segmental facial nerve defect model in rats. Together, our study has identified an approach for rapid biofabrication of functionalized NGCs through harnessing 3D collagen hydrogel-directed conversion of GMSCs into GiSCs. © 2021, The Author(s).


Biofabrication, Functional recovery, Functionalized, Gold standards, Mesenchymal stem cell, Nerve conduits, Nerve injuries, Neural crests, Peripheral nerves, Schwann cells

Included in

Dentistry Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2022

This document has been peer reviewed.