Electrospun silk fibroin nanofibers in different diameters support neurite outgrowth and promote astrocyte migration


Correspondence to: H. Zhang; e-mail: hzhang@suda.edu.cn


Nerve tissue engineering has been one of the promising strategies for regenerative treatment in patients suffering from neural tissue loss, but considerable challenges remain before it is able to progress toward clinical application. It has been demonstrated that transplantation of cells in combination with physically or chemically modified biomaterials provides better environments for neurite outgrowth and further promotes axonal regeneration in animal models of spinal cord injury. In this study, neurons and astrocytes were incorporated into 400-nm, 800-nm, and 1200-nm electrospun Bombyx mori silk fibroin (SF) materials to investigate the effects of scaffold-diameter in regulating and directing cell behaviors. β-III-tubulin immunofluorescence analyses reveal that SF nanofibers with smaller diameters are more favorable to the development and maturation of subventricular zone-derived neuronsthan 1200-nm SF scaffolds. In addition, astrocytes exhibited well-arranged glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression on SF scaffolds, and a significant increase in cell-spreading area was observed on 400-nm but not 1200-nm SF scaffolds. Moreover, a significantly enhanced migration efficiency of astrocytes grown on SF scaffolds was verified, which highlights the guiding roles of SF nanofibers to the migratory cells. Overall, our results may provide valuable information to develop effective tissue remodeling substrates and to optimize existing biomaterials for neural tissue engineering applications. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 101A: 2667–2678, 2013.