Tissue engineering has been defined as “an interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of engineering and life sciences toward the development of biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue function or a whole organ”. Traumatic peripheral nerve injury resulting in significant tissue loss at the zone of injury necessitates the need for a bridge or scaffold for regenerating axons from the proximal stump to reach the distal stump.
A review of the literature was used to provide information on the components necessary for the development of a tissue engineered peripheral nerve substitute. Then, a comprehensive review of the literature is presented composed of the studies devoted to this goal.
Extensive research has been directed toward the development of a tissue engineered peripheral nerve substitute to act as a bridge for regenerating axons from the proximal nerve stump seeking the distal nerve. Ideally this nerve substitute would consist of a scaffold component that mimics the extracellular matrix of the peripheral nerve and a cellular component that serves to stimulate and support regenerating peripheral nerve axons.
The field of tissue engineering should consider its challenge to not only meet the autograft “gold standard” but also to understand what drives and inhibits nerve regeneration in order to surpass the results of an autograft.