Neuron networking with nano bridges via the synthesis and integration of functionalized carbon nanotubes
One of the biggest challenges in peripheral nerve tissue engineering is to create an artificial nerve graft that could mimic the extracellular matrix (ECM) and assist in nerve regeneration. Bio-composite nanofibrous scaffolds made from synthetic and natural polymeric blends provide suitable substrate for tissue engineering and it can be used as nerve guides eliminating the need of autologous nerve grafts. Nanotopography or orientation of the fibers within the scaffolds greatly influences the nerve cell morphology and outgrowth, and the alignment of the fibers ensures better contact guidance of the cells. In this study, poly (L-lactic acid)-co-poly(ε-caprolactone) or P(LLA-CL), collagen I and collagen III are utilized for the fabrication of nanofibers of different compositions and orientations (random and aligned) by electrospinning. The morphology, mechanical, physical, and chemical properties of the electrospun scaffolds along with their biocompatibility using C17.2 nerve stem cells are studied to identify the suitable material compositions and topography of the electrospun scaffolds required for peripheral nerve regeneration. Aligned P(LLA-CL)/collagen I/collagen III nanofibrous scaffolds with average diameter of 253 ± 102 nm were fabricated and characterized with a tensile strength of 11.59 ± 1.68 MPa. Cell proliferation studies showed 22% increase in cell proliferation on aligned P(LLA-CL)/collagen I/collagen III scaffolds compared with aligned pure P(LLA-CL) scaffolds. Results of our in vitro cell proliferation, cell-scaffold interaction, and neurofilament protein expression studies demonstrated that the electrospun aligned P(LLA-CL)/collagen I/collagen III nanofibrous scaffolds mimic more closely towards the ECM of nerve and have great potential as a substrate for accelerated regeneration of the nerve.