Damage to the central nervous system (CNS) can cause severe neurological deficits, thus requiring innovative strategies to promote functional recovery. Among current approaches, using stem cells in combination with biomaterial scaffolds shows great promise. However, designing scaffolds with defined properties to selectively guide stem cell differentiation towards a specific neural cell lineage is still an ongoing challenge. For CNS regeneration, the selective differentiation of stem cells into either neurons (signaling cells) or oligodendrocytes (myelinating support cells) is highly desirable for promoting functional recovery after damage to the CNS from spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, etc. While a number of approaches have been developed to guide stem cell differentiation into neurons, oligodendrocyte differentiation has proven to be much more elusive and results in only a small percentage of the differentiated cell population.
Addressing this challenge, scientists from Prof. KiBum Lee’s Lab (Shreyas Shah, Perry Yin, Dean Chueng & Letao Yang) have recently designed a unique nanomaterial-based hybrid scaffold to selectively guide neural stem cell differentiation into oligodendrocytes. The hybrid scaffolds consisted of a polymer-based nanofiber mat which was further coated with a graphene-based nanomaterial. In addition to being biocompatible these hybrid scaffolds were demonstrated to promote the expression of key markers indicative of mature oligodendrocytes. Furthermore, the study implicated the potential role of specific cellular signaling pathways which were activated in response to the hybrid scaffold, demonstrating the prospect of chemically-designed nanomaterials for applications in neural regeneration.
This work was recently published in Advanced Materials (Shah, S. et al. 2014, 26 (22): 3673-3680) and was selected to appear on the Inside Front Cover.
More Information: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/adma.201400523/abstract
Prof. KiBum Lee
Year of Research Highlight: 2014