Date of this Version
The treatment of long-gap (>10 mm) peripheral nerve injury (PNI) and spinal cord injury (SCI) remains a continuous challenge due to limited native tissue regeneration capabilities. The current clinical strategy of using autografts for PNI suffers from a source shortage, while the pharmacological treatment for SCI presents dissatisfactory results. Tissue engineering, as an alternative, is a promising approach for regenerating peripheral nerves and spinal cords. Through providing a beneficial environment, a scaffold is the primary element in tissue engineering. In particular, scaffolds with anisotropic structures resembling the native extracellular matrix (ECM) can effectively guide neural outgrowth and reconnection. In this review, the anatomy of peripheral nerves and spinal cords, as well as current clinical treatments for PNI and SCI, is first summarized. An overview of the critical components in peripheral nerve and spinal cord tissue engineering and the current status of regeneration approaches are also discussed. Recent advances in the fabrication of anisotropic surface patterns, aligned fibrous substrates, and 3D hydrogel scaffolds, as well as their in vitro and in vivo effects are highlighted. Finally, we summarize potential mechanisms underlying the anisotropic architectures in orienting axonal and glial cell growth, along with their challenges and prospects.