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Volume 17, Issue 5 (September 2015) 17, 776–782; 10.4103/1008-682X.154306

Role of Schwann cells in the regeneration of penile and peripheral nerves

Lin Wang1,2, Melissa T Sanford1, Zhongcheng Xin2, Guiting Lin1, Tom F Lue1

1Knuppe Molecular Urology Laboratory, Department of Urology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA; 2Andrology Center, Department of Urology, Peking University First Hospital, Peking University, Beijing, China.

Correspondence: Prof. TF Lue (tlue@urology.ucsf.edu) and Prof. G Lin (glin@urology.ucsf.edu)



Schwann cells (SCs) are the principal glia of the peripheral nervous system. The end point of SC development is the formation of myelinating and nonmyelinating cells which ensheath large and small diameter axons, respectively. They play an important role in axon regeneration after injury, including cavernous nerve injury that leads to erectile dysfunction (ED). Despite improvement in radical prostatectomy surgical techniques, many patients still suffer from ED postoperatively as surgical trauma causes traction injuries and local inflammatory changes in the neuronal microenvironment of the autonomic fibers innervating the penis resulting in pathophysiological alterations in the end organ. The aim of this review is to summarize contemporary evidence regarding: (1) the origin and development of SCs in the peripheral and penile nerve system; (2) Wallerian degeneration and SC plastic change following peripheral and penile nerve injury; (3) how SCs promote peripheral and penile nerve regeneration by secreting neurotrophic factors; (4) and strategies targeting SCs to accelerate peripheral nerve regeneration. We searched PubMed for articles related to these topics in both animal models and human research and found numerous studies suggesting that SCs could be a novel target for treatment of nerve injury-induced ED.

Keywords: erectile dysfunction; growth factors; prostatectomy

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Asian Journal of Andrology CN 31-1795/R ISSN 1008-682X  Copyright © 2023  Shanghai Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  All rights reserved.