Differentiated adipose-derived stem cells act synergistically with RGD-modified surfaces to improve neurite outgrowth in a co-culture model



Peripheral nerve damage is a problem encountered after trauma and during surgery and the development of synthetic polymer conduits may offer a promising alternative to autografts. In order to improve the performance of the polymer to be used for nerve conduits, poly-ε-caprolactone (PCL) films were chemically functionalized with RGD moieties, using a chemical reaction previously developed. In vitro cultures of dissociated dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons provide a valid model to study different factors affecting axonal growth. In this work, DRG neurons were cultured on RGD-functionalized PCL films. Adult adipose-derived stem cells differentiated to Schwann cells (dASCs) were initially cultured on the functionalized PCL films, resulting in improved attachment and proliferation. dASCs were also co-cultured with DRG neurons on treated and untreated PCL to assess stimulation by dASCs on neurite outgrowth. Neuron response was generally poor on untreated PCL films, but long neurites were observed in the presence of dASCs or RGD moieties. A combination of the two factors enhanced even further neurite outgrowth, acting synergistically. Finally, in order to better understand the extracellular matrix (ECM)–cell interaction, a β1 integrin blocking experiment was carried out. Neurite outgrowth was not affected by the specific antibody blocking, showing that β1 integrin function can be compensated by other molecules present on the cell membrane. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.