Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel Matrices Improve the Neurotrophic Potential of Human Adipose-Derived Stem Cells
Despite advances in microsurgical techniques, treatment options to restore prior function following peripheral nerve injury remain unavailable, and autologous nerve grafting remains the therapy of choice. Recent experimental work has focused on the development of artificial constructs incorporating smart biomaterials and stem cells, aspiring to match/improve the outcomes of nerve autografting. Chemically stimulated human adipose-derived stem cells (dhASC) can improve nerve regeneration outcomes; however, these properties are lost when chemical stimulation is withdrawn, and survival rate upon transplantation is low. It is hypothesized that interactions with synthetic hydrogel matrices could maintain and improve neurotrophic characteristics of dhASC. dhASC are cultured on PeptiGel®-Alpha 1 and PeptiGel®-Alpha 2 self-assembling peptide hydrogels, showing comparable viability to collagen I control gels. Culturing dhASC on Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 substrates allow the maintenance of neurotrophic features, such as the expression of growth factors and neuroglial markers. Both Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 substrates are suitable for the culture of peripheral sensory neurons, permitting sprouting of neuronal extensions without the need of biological extracellular matrices, and preserving neuronal function. PeptiGel® substrates loaded with hdASC are proposed as promising candidates for the development of tissue engineering therapies for the repair of peripheral nerve injuries.