A hybrid nanofiber matrix to control the survival and maturation of brain neurons
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Scaffold design plays a crucial role in developing graft-based regenerative strategies, especially when intended to be used in a highly ordered nerve tissue. Here we describe a hybrid matrix approach, which combines the structural properties of collagen (type I) with the epitope-presenting ability of peptide amphiphile (PA) nanofibers. Self-assembly of PA and collagen molecules results in a nanofibrous scaffold with homogeneous fiber diameter of 20-30 nm, where the number of laminin epitopes IKVAV and YIGSR can be varied by changing the PA concentrations over a broad range of 0.125-2 mg/ml. Granule cells (GC) and Purkinje cells (PC), two major neuronal subtypes of cerebellar cortex, demonstrate distinct response to this change of epitope concentration. On IKVAV hybrid constructs, GC density increases three-fold compared with the control collagen substrate at a PA concentration of ≥0.25 mg/ml, while PC density reaches a maximum (five-fold vs. control) at 0.25 mg/ml of PA and rapidly decreases at higher PA concentrations. In addition, adjustment of the epitope number allowed us to achieve fine control over PC dendrite and axon growth. Due to the ability to modulate neuron survival and maturation by easy manipulation of epitope density, our design offers a versatile test bed to study the extracellular matrix (ECM) contribution in neuron development and the design of optimal neuronal scaffold biomaterials. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.