Peripheral nerve injury therapy in the clinic remains less than satisfactory. The gold standard of treatment for long peripheral nerve defects is autologous nerve grafts; however, numerous clinical complications are associated with this treatment. As tissue engineering has developed, tissue-engineered nerve grafts (TENGs) have shown potential applications as alternatives to autologous nerve grafts. To verify the important role of the biomimetic pathway of fascicle design in TENGs, we designed an animal model to study the role of the precise matching of fascicles in the effectiveness of nerve function recovery. 24 Sprague-Dawley rats were divided randomly into three groups (eight/group) that corresponded to 100% fascicle matching (100%FM), 50%FM and 0%FM. We selected Sprague-Dawley rat long-gap (15 mm) sciatic nerve defects. In the 6 weeks after surgery, we found that the 100%FM group showed the most effective functional recovery among the three groups. The 100%FM group showed better functional recovery on the basis of the sciatic functional index than the 50%FM and 0%FM groups. According to histological evaluation, the 100%FM group showed more regenerating nerve fibres. Moreover, in terms of the prevention of muscle atrophy, the 100%FM group showed excellent physiological outcomes. The 100%FM as tissue-engineered scaffolds can enhance nerve regeneration and effective functional recovery after the repair of large nerve defects. The results of this study provide a theoretical basis for future TENG designs including biomimetic fascicle pathways for repairing long nerve defects.

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