Epineurial scarring in peripheral nerve after injury inhibits normal axonal regeneration primarily due to fibroblast deposition of type I collagen. The transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) family is an important class of signaling molecules that has been shown to stimulate fibroblasts to produce collagen. The aim of this study was to design a prototypic therapeutic system in which the neutralization of TGF-β in crushed rat sciatic nerve would decrease collagen formation. A total of 45 experimental Lewis rats were used. Group 1 animals (20 rats) sustained a unilateral crush injury to the sciatic nerve with injection of phosphate buffer solution. Group 2 animals (20 rats) sustained a unilateral crush injury to the sciatic nerve with injection of phosphate-buffered saline and goat, anti-rat, panspecific TGF-β antibody. Group 3 control animals (five rats) underwent only exposure of sciatic nerve with injection of antibody. All animals were killed at 14 days and sciatic nerve specimens were harvested at that time. Slides of experimental tissue were processed using a 35S-labeled oligomer for procollagen alpha-1 mRNA, then dipped in photographic emulsion and examined by darkfield autoradiography. Morphometric analysis of pixel counts was then performed. A significant reduction in total pixel count per high- power field and in total number of fibroblasts per high-power field was found in crushed rat sciatic nerve treated with anti-TGF-β antibody when compared with those treated only with phosphate-buffered saline. These findings are consistent with successful reduction in procollagen induction after a crush injury by topical administration of blocking antibody against transforming growth factor beta. The concept of growth factor blockade for therapeutic collagen reduction is attractive in the context of nerve injury, and the current article provides a model for future clinical application.
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