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Human stem cell neuronal differentiation on silk-carbon nanotube composite

Chi-Shuo Chen1, Sushant Soni1, Catherine Le2, Matthew Biasca2, Erik Farr2, Eric Y-T Chen1 and Wei-Chun Chin1*

Author Affiliations

1 Bioengineering Program, School of Engineering, University of California, Merced, CA, USA

2 School of Nature Sciences, University of California, Merced, CA, USA

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Nanoscale Research Letters 2012, 7:126  doi:10.1186/1556-276X-7-126

Published: 14 February 2012


Human embryonic stem cells [hESCs] are able to differentiate into specific lineages corresponding to regulated spatial and temporal signals. This unique attribute holds great promise for regenerative medicine and cell-based therapy for many human diseases such as spinal cord injury [SCI] and multiple sclerosis [MS]. Carbon nanotubes [CNTs] have been successfully used to promote neuronal differentiation, and silk has been widely applied in tissue engineering. This study aims to build silk-CNT composite scaffolds for improved neuron differentiation efficiency from hESCs.

Two neuronal markers (β-III tubulin and nestin) were utilized to determine the hESC neuronal lineage differentiation. In addition, axonal lengths were measured to evaluate the progress of neuronal development. The results demonstrated that cells on silk-CNT scaffolds have a higher β-III tubulin and nestin expression, suggesting augmented neuronal differentiation. In addition, longer axons with higher density were found to associate with silk-CNT scaffolds.

Our silk-CNT-based composite scaffolds can promote neuronal differentiation of hESCs. The silk-CNT composite scaffolds developed here can serve as efficient supporting matrices for stem cell-derived neuronal transplants, offering a promising opportunity for nerve repair treatments for SCI and MS patients.

CNT; silk; fibroin; human stem cell; neuron differentiation; scaffold