The effect of human hair keratin hydrogel on early cellular response tosciatic nerve injury in a rat model

Lauren A. Pace, Johannes F. Plate, Thomas L. Smith, Mark E. Van Dyke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Peripheral nerve injuries requiring surgery can be repaired by autograft, the clinical "gold standard", allograft, or nerve conduits. Most published clinical studies show the effectiveness of nerve conduits in small size defects in sensory nerves. Many preclinical studies suggest that peripheral nerve regeneration through conduits can be enhanced and repair lengths increased with the use of a biomaterial filler in the conduit lumen. We have previously shown that a luminal hydrogel filler derived from human hair keratin (HHK) can improve electrophysiological and histological outcomes in mouse, rabbit, and non-human primate nerve injury models, but insight into potential mechanisms has been lacking. Based on the premise that a keratin biomaterial (KOS) hydrogel provides an instantaneous structural matrix within the lumen, the current study compares the cellular behavior elicited by KOS hydrogel to Matrigel (MAT) and saline (SAL) conduit fillers in a 1cm rat sciatic nerve injury model at early stages of regeneration. While there was little difference in initial cellular influx, the KOS group showed earlier migration of dedifferentiated Schwann cells (SC) from the proximal nerve end compared to the other groups. The KOS group also showed faster SC dedifferentiation and myelin debris clearance, and decreased macrophage infiltration during Wallerian degeneration of the distal nerve tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5907-5914
Number of pages8
Issue number24
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Conduit
  • Hydrogel
  • Keratin
  • Nerve
  • Schwann cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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