Investigating the effects of bioactive peptide nanofibers on the growth and differentiation behaviour of nervous system cells
Peripheral nerve regeneration is a tightly regulated process that entails the degeneration, proliferation, alignment and remyelination of Schwann cells. Tuning the bioactivity is important to support all of these processes and achieving successful regeneration. Extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins are important molecules for controlling cell behavior and differentiation. Mimicking the natural ECM proteins is a promising approach for promoting regeneration in peripheral nerve injury. In this study, we investigated the biocompatibility and bioactivity of two natural ECM mimicking peptide amphiphile (PA) molecules, heparan sulfate-mimicking PA (HM-PA) and laminin-mimicking PA (LN-PA), and showed that they self-assemble into ECM-like nanofibrous networks. These bioactive nanofibers promote the viability, proliferation and spreading of Schwann cells, and that the combination of the two bioactive epitopes supports both early and late neuroregenerative responses of Schwann cells. We have also shown that these nanofibers support the attachment and neurite extension of dorsal root ganglion neurons, and promotes neurite alignment and assembly in DRG-Schwann cell co-cultures.