Aligned neurite outgrowth and directed cell migration in self-assembled monodomain gels

Eric J. Berns, Shantanu Sur, Liuliu Pan, Joshua E. Goldberger, Sunitha Suresh, Shuming Zhang, John A. Kessler, Samuel I. Stupp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Regeneration of neural tissues will require regrowth of axons lost due to trauma or degeneration to reestablish neuronal connectivity. One approach toward this goal is to provide directional cues to neurons that can promote and guide neurite growth. Our laboratory previously reported the formation of aligned monodomain gels of peptide amphiphile (PA) nanofibers over macroscopic length scales. In this work, we modified these aligned scaffolds specifically to support neural cell growth and function. This was achieved by displaying extracellular matrix (ECM) derived bioactive peptide epitopes on the surface of aligned nanofibers of the monodomain gel. Presentation of IKVAV or RGDS epitopes enhanced the growth of neurites from neurons encapsulated in the scaffold, while the alignment guided these neurites along the direction of the nanofibers. After two weeks of culture in the scaffold, neurons displayed spontaneous electrical activity and established synaptic connections. Scaffolds encapsulating neural progenitor cells were formed in situ within the spinal cord and resulted in the growth of oriented processes invivo. Moreover, dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells demonstrated extensive migration inside the scaffold, with the direction of their movement guided by fiber orientation. The bioactive and macroscopically aligned scaffold investigated here and similar variants can potentially be tailored for use in neural tissue regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Alignment
  • Anisotropic gel
  • Neurite growth
  • Peptide amphiphile
  • Self assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials

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