We have previously shown that implanted fetal nerve tissue stimulates the regeneration of amputated chick limbs. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a similar phenomenon would occur in amputated rat limbs and if addition of applied direct current (DC) would affect this process. Thus, fetal nerve tissue was implanted into amputated stumps of 3-week-old rats; variable tissue regeneration was induced that was dependent on the age of the donor implant and the presence of applied DC. Twelve or 14 day fetal neural implants induced new accessory bones containing epiphyseal plates and marrow cavities and occasionally formed joint-like structures with the host humerus. Addition of DC to 12 day neural implants increased the number of new bones formed. Eighteen day neural tissue with applied DC did not induce new bone formation but stimulated the maximal elongation of the host humerus and outgrowth of nerve fibers to the cut surface. Implantation of fetal heart tissue or implantation of fetal neural tissue into unamputated limbs failed to induce new bone formation. Although true limb regeneration was not achieved, formation of new skeletal elements did occur and this effect was enhanced by applied DC.
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