Monday, 21 December 2015 10:55

Schwann-cell cylinders grown inside hyaluronic-acid tubular scaffolds with gradient porosity

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Cell transplantation therapies in the nervous system are frequently hampered by glial scarring and cell drain from the damaged site, among others. To improve this situation, new biomaterials may be of help. Here, novel single-channel tubular conduits based on hyaluronic acid (HA) with and without poly-l-lactide acid fibers in their lumen were fabricated. Rat Schwann cells were seeded within the conduits and cultured for 10 days. The conduits possessed a three-layered porous structure that impeded the leakage of the cells seeded in their interior and made them impervious to cell invasion from the exterior, while allowing free transport of nutrients and other molecules needed for cell survival. The channel’s surface acted as a template for the formation of a cylindrical sheath-like tapestry of Schwann cells continuously spanning the whole length of the lumen. Schwann-cell tubes having a diameter of around 0.5 mm and variable lengths can thus be generated. This structure is not found in nature and represents a truly engineered tissue, the outcome of the specific cell–material interactions. The conduits might be useful to sustain and protect cells for transplantation, and the biohybrids here described, together with neuronal precursors, might be of help in building bridges across significant distances in the central and peripheral nervous system.

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