Facial Nerve Surgery in the Rat Model to Study Axonal Inhibition and Regeneration

This article has been accepted and is currently in production


This protocol describes consistent and reproducible methods to study axonal regeneration and inhibition in a rat facial nerve injury model. The facial nerve can be manipulated along its entire length, from its intracranial segment to its extratemporal course. There are three primary types of nerve injury used for the experimental study of regenerative properties: nerve crush, transection, and nerve gap. The range of possible interventions is vast, including surgical manipulation of the nerve, delivery of neuroactive reagents or cells, and either central or end-organ manipulations. Advantages of this model for studying nerve regeneration include simplicity, reproducibility, interspecies consistency, reliable survival rates of the rat, and an increased anatomic size relative to murine models. Its limitations involve a more limited genetic manipulation versus the mouse model and the superlative regenerative capability of the rat, such that the facial nerve scientist must carefully assess time points for recovery and whether to translate results to higher animals and human studies. The rat model for facial nerve injury allows for functional, electrophysiological, and histomorphometric parameters for the interpretation and comparison of nerve regeneration. It thereby boasts tremendous potential toward furthering the understanding and treatment of the devastating consequences of facial nerve injury in human patients.