Glial Cell Line–Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Chondroitinase Promote Axonal Regeneration in a Chronic Denervation Animal Model

Karim A. Sarhane, Sami H. Tuffaha, Zuhaib Ibrahim, Christopher R. Cashman, Kellin Krick, Russell Martin, Justin M. Broyles, Damon S. Cooney, W. P.Andrew Lee, Ruifa Mi, Hai Quan Mao, Ahmet Höke, Gerald Brandacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Functional recovery following nerve injury declines when target re-innervation is delayed. Currently, no intervention exists to improve outcomes after prolonged denervation. We explored the neuroregenerative effects of glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and chondroitinase (CDN) in a chronic denervation animal model. A fibrin-based sustained delivery method for growth factors was optimized in vitro and in vivo, and then tested in our animal model. GDNF, CDN, and GDNF+CDN were injected into the denervated stump at the time of nerve repair. Histomorphometry and retrograde labeling were used to assess axonal regeneration. The mechanisms promoting such regeneration were explored with immunofluorescence. Five weeks after repair, the GDNF+CDN group had the highest number and maturity of axons. GDNF was noted to preferentially promote axonal maturity, whereas CDN predominantly increased the number of axons. GDNF favored motor neuron regeneration, and upregulated Ki67 in Schwann cells. CDN did not favor motor versus sensory regeneration and was noted to cleave inhibitory endoneurial proteoglycans. Early measures of nerve regeneration after delayed repair are improved by activating Schwann cells and breaking down the inhibitory proteoglycans in the distal nerve segment, suggesting a role for GDNF+CDN to be translated for human nerve repairs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1283-1295
Number of pages13
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019



  • Glial cell line–derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)
  • Schwann cells
  • chondroitinase
  • chronic denervation
  • nerve regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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