Despite advances in microsurgical technology and an improved understanding of nerve regeneration, obtaining satisfactory results after facial nerve injury remains a difficult clinical problem. Among existing peripheral nerve regeneration studies, relatively few have focused on the facial nerve, particularly how experimental studies of the facial nerve using animal models play an essential role in understanding functional outcomes and how such studies can lead to improved axon regeneration after nerve injury. The purpose of this article is to review current perspectives on strategies for applying potential therapeutic methods for facial nerve regeneration. To this end, we searched Embase, PubMed, and the Cochrane library using keywords, and after applying exclusion criteria, obtained a total of 31 qualifying experimental studies. We then summarize the fundamental experimental studies on facial nerve regeneration, highlighting recent bioengineering studies employing various strategies for supporting facial nerve regeneration, including nerve conduits with stem cells, neurotrophic factors, and/or other therapeutics. Our summary of the methods and results of these previous reports reveal a common feature among studies, showing that various neurotrophic factors arising from injured nerves contribute to a microenvironment that plays an important role in functional recovery. In most cases, histological examinations showed that this microenvironmental influence increased axonal diameter as well as myelination thickness. Such an analysis of available research on facial nerve injury and regeneration represents the first step toward future therapeutic strategies.
- Facial nerve
- Therapeutic strategies