OBJECTIVE: In our study, we describe the use of spider silk fibres as a new material in nerve tissue engineering, in a 20-mm sciatic nerve defect in rats. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We compared isogenic nerve grafts to vein grafts with spider silk fibres, either alone or supplemented with Schwann cells, or Schwann cells and matrigel. Controls, consisting of veins and matrigel, were transplanted. After 6 months, regeneration was evaluated for clinical outcome, as well as for histological and morphometrical performance. RESULTS: Nerve regeneration was achieved with isogenic nerve grafts as well as with all constructs, but not in the control group. Effective regeneration by isogenic nerve grafts and grafts containing spider silk was corroborated by diminished degeneration of the gastrocnemius muscle and by good histological evaluation results. Nerves stained for S-100 and neurofilament indicated existence of Schwann cells and axonal re-growth. Axons were aligned regularly and had a healthy appearance on ultrastructural examination. Interestingly, in contrast to recently published studies, we found that bridging an extensive gap by cell-free constructs based on vein and spider silk was highly effective in nerve regeneration. CONCLUSION: We conclude that spider silk is a viable guiding material for Schwann cell migration and proliferation as well as for axonal re-growth in a long-distance model for peripheral nerve regeneration.