Medelin, 2018 3

2018 - Acta Biomater. 2018 Jun;73:285-301.

Exploiting natural polysaccharides to enhance in vitro bio-constructs of primary neurons and progenitor cells

Medelin M, Porrelli D, Aurand ER, Scaini D, Travan A, Borgogna MA, Cok M, Donati I, Marsich E, Scopa C, Scardigli R, Paoletti S, Ballerini L.


Current strategies in Central Nervous System (CNS) repair focus on the engineering of artificial scaffolds for guiding and promoting neuronal tissue regrowth. Ideally, one should combine such synthetic structures with stem cell therapies, encapsulating progenitor cells and instructing their differentiation and growth. We used developments in the design, synthesis, and characterization of polysaccharide-based bioactive polymeric materials for testing the ideal composite supporting neuronal network growth, synapse formation and stem cell differentiation into neurons and motor neurons. Moreover, we investigated the feasibility of combining these approaches with engineered mesenchymal stem cells able to release neurotrophic factors. We show here that composite bio-constructs made of Chitlac, a Chitosan derivative, favor hippocampal neuronal growth, synapse formation and the differentiation of progenitors into the proper neuronal lineage, that can be improved by local and continuous delivery of neurotrophins.


In our work, we characterized polysaccharide-based bioactive platforms as biocompatible materials for nerve tissue engineering. We show that Chitlac-thick substrates are able to promote neuronal growth, differentiation, maturation and formation of active synapses. These observations support this new material as a promising candidate for the development of complex bio-constructs promoting central nervous system regeneration. Our novel findings sustain the exploitation of polysaccharide-based scaffolds able to favour neuronal network reconstruction. Our study shows that Chitlac-thick may be an ideal candidate for the design of biomaterial scaffolds enriched with stem cell therapies as an innovative approach for central nervous system repair.


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