Differentiation of neural stem cells in three-dimensional growth factor-immobilized chitosan hydrogel scaffolds
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The adult central nervous system (CNS) contains adult neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) that possess the ability to differentiate into the primary cell types found in the CNS and to regenerate lost or damaged tissue. The ability to specifically and spatially control differentiation is vital to enable cell-based CNS regenerative strategies. Here we describe the development of a protein-biomaterial system that allows rapid, stable and homogenous linking of a growth factor to a photocrosslinkable material. A bioactive recombinant fusion protein incorporating pro-neural rat interferon-γ (rIFN-γ) and the AviTag for biotinylation was successfully expressed in Escherichia coli and purified. The photocrosslinkable biopolymer, methacrylamide chitosan (MAC), was thiolated, allowing conjugation of maleimide-strepatavidin via Michael-type addition. We demonstrated that biotin-rIFN-γ binds specifically to MAC-streptavidin in stoichiometric yields at 100 and 200 ng/mL in photocrosslinked hydrogels. For cell studies, NSPCs were photo-encapsulated in 100 ng/mL biotin-rIFN-γ immobilized MAC based scaffolds and compared to similar NSPC-seeded scaffolds combining 100 ng/mL soluble biotin-rIFN-γ vs. no growth factor. Cells were cultured for 8 days after which differentiation was assayed using immunohistochemistry for lineage specific markers. Quantification showed that immobilized biotin-rIFN-γ promoted neuronal differentiation (72.8 ± 16.0%) similar to soluble biotin-rIFN-γ (71.8 ± 13.2%). The percentage of nestin-positive (stem/progenitor) cells as well as RIP-positive (oligodendrocyte) cells were significantly higher in scaffolds with soluble vs. immobilized biotin-rIFN-γ suggesting that 3-D immobilization results in a more committed lineage specification.
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