Peripheral nerve injury is a life-changing disability with significant socioeconomic consequences. In this rat model, we propose that partial enzyme digestion can facilitate the functional recovery of a crushed nerve. The sciatic nerves were harvested and in vitro cultured with the addition of Liberase to determine the appropriate enzyme amount in the hyaluronic acid (HA) membrane. Then, the sciatic nerve of adult male Sprague-Dawley rats was exposed, crushed, and then treated with partial enzyme digestion (either 0.001 or 0.002 unit/mm2 Liberase-HA membrane). The sciatic function index (SFI) for functional recovery of the sciatic nerve was evaluated. After 2 h of in vitro digestion, fascicles and axons were separated from each other, with the cells mobilized. Greater destruction of histology structures occurred in the high enzyme (Liberase-HA membrane at 0.002 unit/mm2) group at 24 h than in the low enzyme (0.001 unit/mm2) group at 48 h. In the SFI evaluation, the improvement in 0.001 unit/mm2 Liberase group was significantly better than control and 0.002 unit/mm2 Liberase group. Our study demonstrated that appropriate enzyme digestion had a significantly faster and earlier recovery.
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