1. NJCBM Director Dr. Joachim Kohn and Co-Authors Publish in Nature Communications on 3D Scaffolds for Neuron Regrowth

Neurodegenerative diseases and central nervous system injuries cause life-changing motor and sensory deficits as a result of severe loss of neurons in the central nervous system.  Cell replacement therapies using patient-derived cells reprogrammed into neurons have the potential to restore normal function, however, typical cell transplantation involves forcefully detaching cells from growth surfaces and result in limited transplanted cell survival, functionality, and engraftment.  Researchers in the lab of Dr. Prabhas Moghe believed that these limitations were caused by the disruption of cell-cell and cell-biomaterial contacts in the process of transplantation, and that these contacts could be preserved and manipulated using microscale fibrous environments.  To test these ideas, these researchers built on technology developed in the lab of Dr. Joachim Kohn to design three-dimensional polymeric scaffolds with tunable microscale topography.  The maturation of reprogrammed neuronal populations was enhanced on some scaffold geometries, and these cell populations were observed to have significantly fewer dividing and potentially tumorigenic cells.  Scaffold-supported reprogrammed neuronal cell population successfully engrafted into hippocampal brain slices, with a 3.5-fold improvement in neurite outgrowth and increased action potential firing relative to dissociated single cells.  Scaffolds also improved the survival rate of neurons transplanted into mouse brain 38-fold.  Overall, these studies demonstrate that preserving and engineering cell-cell and cell-biomaterial interactions should be major considerations guiding the design of scaffolds for transplanting neuronal populations.  With these newly discovered principles, three-dimensional microscale biomaterials represent a promising platform for the transplantation of therapeutic human neurons with broad neuro-regenerative relevance.