Neural functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI) has, for many years, been a difficult problem to overcome. Although many recent studies have shown that spinal cords have a weak ability for regeneration after SCI, neural functional recovery in adult mammals remains hard to achieve. For the past few decades, research has been focused on an effective method to treat spinal cord injury, including gene therapy, cell transplantation and drug treatment. As an emerging cross discipline, tissue engineering provides a new direction and possibility for the treatment of SCI. Using tissue engineering technology, suitable cells have been seeded onto biocompatible scaffolds and transplanted into injured spinal cords to form new functional neural connections and circuits. Following this, the damaged spinal cord is ultimately repaired and reconstructed..
Tissue engineering has brought new possibilities for the treatment of spinal cord injury. Two important components for tissue engineering of the spinal cord include a suitable cell source and scaffold. In our study, we investigated induced mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) directly reprogrammed into neural stem cells (iNSCs), as a cell source. Three-dimensional (3D) electrospun poly (lactide-co-glycolide)/polyethylene glycol (PLGA-PEG) nanofiber scaffolds were used for iNSCs adhesion and growth. Cell growth, survival and proliferation on the scaffolds were investigated. Scanning electron microcopy (SEM) and nuclei staining were used to assess cell growth on the scaffolds. Scaffolds with iNSCs were then transplanted into transected rat spinal cords. Two or 8 weeks following transplantation, immunofluorescence was performed to determine iNSC survival and differentiation within the scaffolds. Functional recovery was assessed using the Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) Scale. Results indicated that iNSCs showed similar morphological features with wild-type neural stem cells (wt-NSCs), and expressed a variety of neural stem cell marker genes. Furthermore, iNSCs were shown to survive, with the ability to self-renew and undergo neural differentiation into neurons and glial cells within the 3D scaffolds in vivo. The iNSC-seeded scaffolds restored the continuity of the spinal cord and reduced cavity formation. Additionally, iNSC-seeded scaffolds contributed to functional recovery of the spinal cord. Therefore, PLGA-PEG scaffolds seeded with iNSCs may serve as promising supporting transplants for repairing spinal cord injury (SCI).
FULL PUBLICATION IN PLOS ONE:
Tissue-Engineered Regeneration of Completely Transected Spinal Cord Using Induced Neural Stem Cells and Gelatin-Electrospun Poly (Lactide-Co-Glycolide)/Polyethylene Glycol Scaffolds