Strategies for neurotrophin-3 and chondroitinase ABC release from freeze-cast chitosan–alginate nerve-guidance scaffolds



Freeze casting, or controlled unidirectional solidification, can be used to fabricate chitosan–alginate (C–A) scaffolds with highly aligned porosity that are suitable for use as nerve-guidance channels. To augment the guidance of growth across a spinal cord injury lesion, these scaffolds are now evaluated in vitro to assess their ability to release neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and chondroitinase ABC (chABC) in a controlled manner. Protein-loaded microcapsules were incorporated into C–A scaffolds prior to freeze casting without affecting the original scaffold architecture. In vitro protein release was not significantly different when comparing protein loaded directly into the scaffolds with release from scaffolds containing incorporated microcapsules. NT-3 was released from the C–A scaffolds for 8 weeks in vitro, while chABC was released for up to 7 weeks. Low total percentages of protein released from the scaffolds over this time period were attributed to limitation of diffusion by the interpenetrating polymer network matrix of the scaffold walls. NT-3 and chABC released from the scaffolds retained bioactivity, as determined by a neurite outgrowth assay, and the promotion of neurite growth across an inhibitory barrier of chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans. This demonstrates the potential of these multifunctional scaffolds for enhancing axonal regeneration through growth-inhibiting glial scars via the sustained release of chABC and NT-3. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.