Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Anatomy & Neurobiology

First Advisor

David Simpson


This study examines the prospects of using the electrospinning process to fabricate tissue engineering scaffolds targeting a variety of regenerative applications, with a primary focus on the production of nerve guides for the treatment of long-defect nerve injuries in the peripheral nervous system. A basic overview of the conventional electrospinning process is provided, and the utility of this fabrication scheme in the production of collagen-based tissue engineering scaffolds is demonstrated. Next, a novel modification of the basic electrospinning process is presented. This process, called two pole air gap electrospinning, was developed to produce nerve guides that exhibit an anisotropic structure that mimics the extracellular matrix of native peripheral nerve tissue. This electrospinning process makes it possible to produce macroscopic nerve guides that are cylindrical in shape and composed of dense arrays of nano- to micron-scale diameter fibers. Unlike, conventional hollow core nerve guides, these electrospun constructs lack a central lumen, hence the designation 3D (for three-dimensional) nerve guide. The fibers are nearly exclusively arrayed in parallel with the long axis of the construct. This architectural feature provides thousands of individual channels, and aligned fibers that provide guidance cues that are designed to drive regenerating axons to grow in a highly directed fashion down the longitudinal axis of the guide. To supplement the structural cues provided by the fibrillar arrays of the electrospun 3D nerve guides, an alginate-based platform designed to deliver therapeutic reagents was developed and characterized. This platform makes it possible to fabricate gradients of therapeutic reagents within the fibrillar arrays of an electrospun nerve guide. Functional and structural analyses of these constructs supplemented with or without a gradient of NGF, in a long-defect nerve injury in the rodent sciatic nerve indicate that the 3D design is superior to the gold standard treatment, the autologous nerve graft. Animals treated with the 3D grafts recovered motor and sensory function faster and exhibited far higher nerve-to-nerve and nerve-to-muscle signal amplitudes in electrophysiological studies than animals treated with autologous grafts or conventional hollow core cylindrical grafts.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

February 2012