Perforated microelectrode arrays implanted in the regenerating adult central nervous system
Adult mammalian optic nerve axons are able to regenerate, when provided with the permissive environment of an autologous peripheral nerve graft, which is usually the sciatic nerve. This study demonstrates the ability of adult rat optic nerve axons to regenerate through the preformed perforations of a polyimide electrode carrier implanted at the interface between the proximal stump of the cut optic nerve and the stump of the peripheral nerve piece used for grafting. Evidence that retinal ganglion cells regenerated their axons through the perforated electrode carrier was obtained by retrograde labeling with a fluorescent dye deposited into the sciatic nerve graft beyond the nerve-carrier-nerve junction. The number of regenerating cells could be enhanced by injecting neuroprotective drugs like aurintricarboxylic acid and cortisol intravitreally. A second line of evidence was obtained by immunohistochemical staining with antibodies to neurofilament. Third, electrical activity of the regenerating nerves was recorded after stimulating the retina with a flash of light. The results suggest that a regenerating central nerve tract may serve as an experimental model to implant artificial microdevices to monitor the physiological and topographical properties of neurites passing through the device or to stimulate them, thus interfering with their potential to grow. This study reports for the first time that the optic nerve has unique properties, which aids in the realization of these goals.