An immunosuppressant drug that also possesses neuroregenerative properties, FK506 enhances the rate of axonal regeneration and improves recovery after nerve lesions. Nevertheless, prolonged immunosuppression may not be justified to assure the success of nerve regeneration. In this study, we compare the effects of continuous and discontinuous FK506 treatment on regeneration and reinnervation after sciatic nerve resection repaired with autologous or allogenic grafts in the mouse. For each type of repair, one group received FK506 (5 mg/kg) for 4 months, whereas a second group was treated with FK506 at 5 mg/kg for 5 weeks followed by 3 mg/kg for 4 weeks; a control group received saline only. Functional reinnervation was assessed by noninvasive methods to determine recovery of motor, sensory, and autonomic functions in the hind paw over 4 months after operation. Morphological analysis of the regenerated nerves was performed at the termination of the study. Autografts and allografts treated with sustained FK506 (5 mg/kg) reached high levels of reinnervation and followed a course of recovery faster than controls. The numbers of myelinated fibers also were similar. Allografts without immunosuppression demonstrated a slower rate of regeneration, exhibiting lower final levels of recovery compared with other groups and containing fewer numbers of regenerating myelinated fibers. Withdrawal of immunosuppressant therapy resulted in a decline in the degree of reinnervation in all functions tested during the third month, with stabilization between the third and fourth months. The number of regenerated myelinated fibers in the group was significantly lower than in autografts. Thus, continuous or discontinuous FK506 administration slightly accelerated the rate of reinnervation in autografts. In allograft repair, FK506 significantly enhanced both the rate and degree of regeneration and recovery, but its withdrawal resulted in graft rejection, a marked deterioration in function, and loss of regenerating fibers.
- Nerve regeneration
- Sciatic nerve