Incomplete recovery of function and neuropathic pain are common problems after peripheral nerve injury. To develop new treatment strategies for peripheral nerve injuries we investigated whether the neurotrophic factor artemin could improve outcome after sciatic nerve injuries in rats. Artemin is a member of the glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) family and exerts neuroprotective effects on sensory neurons as well as influencing behavioural thermal sensitivity. We additionally evaluated if fibrin sealant, which is sometimes used as a nerve glue, had any effects on neuropathic pain-related behaviour. After the sciatic nerve had been transected, 30 animals were randomised to one of three groups: treatment with a fibrin sealant that contained artemin in conjunction with sutures; fibrin sealant with no artemin (sham) in conjunction with sutures; or sutures alone (n=10 in each group). Motor function, sensory function, and autotomy were evaluated from 1 to 12 weeks after injury. Retrograde flourogold tracing 12 weeks after injury showed that the addition of artemin increased the number of regenerating motor neurons. However, it did not improve their performance, as measured by the Sciatic Function Index, compared with sham or suture alone. Animals treated with artemin had a non-significant increase in motor nerve conduction velocity compared with sham. However, artemin did not reverse nerve injury-induced pain behaviour such as cold or heat hypersensitivity. Fibrin sealant in itself did not ameliorate motor performance, or regeneration of motor neurons, or give rise to nerve injury-induced pain behaviour. The results indicate that artemin is of value as a treatment for peripheral nerve injuries, although the effects were limited. As the artemin high-affinity receptor GFRalpha-3 is present in Schwann cells and not in motor neurons, the effect on motor neuron axon regeneration may result from an indirect effect through Schwann cells in the injured nerve.
2009. Vol. 43, no 5