Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Using primate neural stem cells cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds to repair injured spinal cords in rats

A Retraction to this article was published on 18 July 2017

Abstract

Study design:

Transplanted primates’ neural stem cells (NSCs) tissue engineering complex into spinal cord injury (SCI) model rats, analyze and evaluate the long-term effects of repairing.

Objectives:

Primate NSCs were cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds to repair SCI.

Setting:

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Guangzhou, China.

Methods:

Primate NSCs were isolated and cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds. T10 SCI model was established; the rats were randomly divided into four groups: NSC plus self-assembling peptide scaffold group; NSC group; self-assembling peptide scaffold group; and control group. Immunohistochemical staining and electronic microscope were used to investigate the growth and differentiation of transplanted NSCs. The motor function of the hind limbs of rats was evaluated (P<0.05 was considered as statistically significant).

Results:

NSCs and NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds could be induced to differentiation into neurons, glial cells and oligodendrocytes in vitro. The primate NSC culture was established in self-assembling peptide scaffolds. No significant difference was seen in the differentiation rate between primate NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds and primate NSCs cultured in regular medium. The motor function of the hind limbs in the NSC plus self-assembling peptide scaffold group was significantly better than that of the other three groups. In addition, the NSCs of the NSC group mainly differentiated into astrocytes.

Conclusion:

Transplantation of primate NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide scaffolds is efficient for repairing the injured spinal cord and for improving the motor function of spinal cord in rats.

Sponsorship:

The National Natural Science Foundation of China; Science and Technology Office of Guangdong Province.

Introduction

There are approximately 25 million spinal cord injury (SCI) patients in the world, and over 130 000 new cases of SCI have been annually reported.1 The treatment for SCI patients has been extensively studied in the field of neuroscience; however, limited progress has been achieved.2 The loss of sensory and motor function due to SCI causes a significant decrease in the quality of life of SCI patients, mental suffering and heavy burden on the family and society.3

The emergence of novel tissue engineering materials and the rapid development of tissue engineering such as neural stem cells (NSCs) provide a promising approach for the treatment of SCI. Currently, artificial cartilage, PET polyvinyl ester, fibrin scaffold, collagen scaffold, rotary bioreactors, microcapsules and hollow fibers are used extensively as tissue engineering materials. Self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold, a type of fibrin scaffold, is a nano-scale artificial peptide biomaterial emerging in recent years.4 Self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold serves as a supporter and provides a stable microenvironment for the growth of transplanted cells in vivo. It has been shown that self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold significantly improves the differentiation of transplanted cells in the acute phase of transplant. Rat NSCs have been successfully cultured in the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold.5 Transplant of NSCs cultured in the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold might be a promising approach for the treatment of SCI; however, the in vivo differentiation and proliferation of NSCs cultured in the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold have not been well studied.

In the present study, we isolated NSCs from the embryonic brain tissue of primates and cultured the cells in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds in vitro. The NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds were transplanted into the injured spinal cord of rats to evaluate the differentiation and proliferation of NSCs in vivo.

Materials and methods

Animal ethics statement

All animal studies have been approved by the Research Institute for Spinal Cord Injury of Sun Yat-sen University. All animal studies have been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments.

Materials

SPF grade female Sprague Dawley rats were purchased from the animal center of Sun Yat-sen University. The abortion embryos (2–3-month old) from cynomolgus monkeys were provided by South China Primate Research and Development Center. The NYU MASCIS impactor was provided by the Spinal Cord Injury Institute of Sun Yat-sen University. Poly-l-lysine (15–30 kDa), Hoechst 33342 fluorescent dyes, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, B27, N2, basic fibroblast growth factor and epidermal growth factor were purchased from Sigma (St Louis, MO, USA). Trypsin, fetal bovine serum and DMEM/F12 cell culture powder were purchased from Gibco (Grand Island, NY, USA). The analytical reagents paraformaldehyde and NaHCO3 were purchased from Beijing Chemical Reagent Company, Beijing, China. Goat blocking serum was purchased from Wuhan Boshide Bio Inc (Wuhan, China). Rabbit nestin, MAP2, Oligo, GFAP monoclonal antibody, goat anti-rabbit IgG-Cy3 and goat anti-rabbit IgG-FITC (fluoroscein isothiocyanate) were purchased from Abcam (Cambridge, MA, USA). CM-DiI dye was purchased from Molecular Probes (Eugene, OR, USA). The self-assembling peptide gel was obtained from the Center for Biomedical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as a gift.

Isolation, identification, culture and differentiation of primate NSCs

The subventricular zone was dissected from the abortion embryonic brain tissue of 2–3-month-old cynomolgus monkeys under sterile conditions. The vessels and fascia were carefully removed from the subventricular zone in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) at 4 °C under a dissecting microscope. The subventricular tissue was cut into small pieces (1 mm3) and digested in 0.1% trypsin for 20 min. Digestion was terminated using 5% fetal bovine serum and passed through a filter to form a single-cell suspension. After centrifugation at 1000 r.p.m. and 4 °C for 10 min, the cell pellet was re-suspended in serum-free DMEM/F12 containing B27 (1:50), epidermal growth factor (20 μg l−1), basic fibroblast growth factor (20 μg l−1) and N2 (1:100). The cells were inoculated in a 12-well culture plate at a density of 2 × 108 cells per liter and cultured in an incubator of 5% CO2 at 37 °C. After 7 days of culture, half culture medium was replaced by serum-free DMEM/F12. The first passage was generated after 2 weeks of culture, and cells of the third passage with good growth performance were stained with nesting.

Differentiation of NSCs

A single-cell suspension was generated by softly blowing NSC clones. The cells were inoculated into a serum-free normal culture medium in a 24-well culture plate with a poly-l-lysine-coated coverslip at a density of 2 × 108 cells per liter and cultured for 3 days. The culture medium was replaced by the DMEM/F12 medium containing 5% fetal bovine serum and cultured for 7 days. The cells attached on the coverslip were fixed and incubated with neuronal marker MAP2, astrocyte marker GFAP and oligodendrocyte marker Oligo for immunofluorescence staining.

Culture of NSCs with self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold

The sterilized self-assembled peptide nanofiber powder was dissolved in filter-sterilized triple-distilled water 1% (w/v; 10 mg ml−1). The self-assembled peptide nanofiber solution was transferred onto a 96-well culture plate (30 μl per well) and mixed with the DMEM/F12 culture medium (200 μl per well). The plate was incubated in an incubator at 37 °C for 30 min to allow the self-assembly of peptide nanofibers. The supernatant was removed by pipetting. The subcultured NSC clones were gently dispersed by pipetting to generate single-cell suspension. The NSCs were inoculated into the 96-well plate at a density of 2 × 108 cells per liter, in which the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold was previously prepared, and cultured in the serum-free DMEM/F12 medium that was replaced by the DMEM/F12 medium containing 5% fetal bovine serum after 3 days of subculture. The NSCs were fixed by 4% paraformaldehyde after 7 days of culture in the DMEM/F12 medium containing 5% fetal bovine serum for immunofluorescence staining of neuronal marker MAP2, astrocyte marker GFAP, conduct neuronal marker MAP2, astrocyte marker GFAP and oligodendrocytes marker Oligo. After immunofluorescence staining, the NSCs were examined under confocal microscopy to investigate the location and density of these molecular markers.

Establishment of the animal model of SCI and transplant of NSCs

Cells preparation before transplantation: the NSCs were inoculated into the 70mm culture plate at a density of 2 × 108 cells per liter, in which the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold was previously prepared, after 6 days, collecting the cells by using the scraper. The cells were incubated in CM-DiI PBS solution (2 μg ml−1), 37 °C for 30 min and then 4 °C for 30 min; finally, the cells were washed twice with PBS, adjusting the cells at a density of 5 × 109 cells per liter.

NIH guidelines for laboratory animal care and safety were strictly followed. The animals had free access to food and water throughout the study. Fifty female s.d. rats (200–250 g) were anesthetized by intraperitoneal injection of 10% chloral hydrate (350 mg kg−1 body weight). Ten minutes after the injection, the rats were under general anesthesia. The rats were fixed on a board to remove the back hair. After conventional iodine disinfection, an incision on the back at the T10 level was applied to expose the thoracic laminectomy. The T10 lamina was removed using micro-scissors to expose the dura. The T10 spinal cord was injured using a NYU MASCIS impactor (10 g × 50 mm). The rats with SCI were randomly divided into four groups. The NSC plus self-assembling peptide scaffold group (n=15) was transplanted with 5 μl primate NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds. The NSC group (n=15) was transplanted with primate 5 μl NSCs. The self-assembling peptide scaffold group (n=10) was transplanted with 5 μl self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds. The control group (n=10) was the controls without any transplantation. The NSCs, NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds or self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds were injected into the center, proximal (1 mm) and distal ends (1 mm) of the injured spinal cord at the depth of 1 mm using a microinjector under a three-dimensional positioning system. The microinjector was pulled out 1 min after the injection, and the incision was closed by suturing muscle and skin. One milliliter of 0.09% NaCl and 5% carprofen (3 mg kg−1) was injected subcutaneously during the time animals recover from anesthesia. After recovering from anesthesia, the animals were housed separately according to the groups mentioned above, postoperative rats at 37 °C constant temperature with an electric blanket for every cage, with free diet, and a dropper to feed brine sugar when necessary. Antibiotic (amoxicillin sodium) was administrated by intraperitoneal injection after the surgery to prevent urinary tract infection. The animals had their bladder manually emptied twice daily until recovery of micturition and were carefully inspected for weight loss and dehydration.

A segment (approximately 2 cm) of spinal cord T9–T11 was dissected under anesthesia after 2, 4 and 8 weeks of the injection of NSCs, NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds or self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds. After careful removal of scar tissues, the dissected spinal cord was fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde for 24 h, followed by dehydration in 30% sucrose for 48 h. Frozen sections (4 μm) were produced for immunofluorescence staining of Nestin, GFAP, MAP2 and Oligo. The post-injury motor behavior of both hind limbs was assessed using the Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor scale method between the first and 10th weeks after SCI experiment.

Immunofluorescence assays

The cells or sections were fixed in cold acetone for 20 min and washed three times with PBS for 5 min. After being treated with 3% hydrogen peroxide to block endogenous peroxidase for 20 min, the cells or sections were washed three times with PBS for 5 min and blocked with goat serum at 37 °C for 30 min. After the removal of the blocking solution, 50 μl anti-mouse primary antibodies including anti-nestin, NeuN, NSE, NF-M, GFAP (1:100 dilution) were added onto the cells or tissues and incubated in an incubator at 4 °C. PBS was used as the negative control. After overnight incubation, the cells or sections were washed three times with PBS for 5 min and dried in air. The slides were sealed and examined under the microscope.

Assessment of the motor behavior based on the BBB locomotor scale

The BBB locomotor scale method was first proposed by researchers in the Ohio University in 1995 to assess the functional recovery of SCI.6 This method is specifically useful for evaluating the functional recovery of hind limbs in rats with thoracic cord injury. The BBB method details the evaluation of the functional recovery of spinal cord functions in many animals. The grade of BBB score is consistent with the functional recovery of injured spinal cord, and each BBB score has independent assessment criteria.

In the present study, a double-blind BBB evaluation was conducted by two independent researchers, and the mean value was used to finally assess the functional recovery of hind limbs. The BBB score was determined weekly 1 day after NSC injection. Bladder massage was conducted for urination before the BBB assessment to avoid the influence of a full bladder on the movement of animals. The following movements were included in the BBB assessment, including the activity of hind hips, knees, ankles, the torso and abdomen status (deformity, stable walking, whether the abdomen touched the ground when walking), the status of claws when touching the ground (internal rotation, external rotation, or parallel), the gait and the hind paw and the tail status.

Statistical analyses

The results are expressed as mean±standard deviation. Statistical analyses were performed using the SAS8.0 package. The differences between the two groups were analyzed using analysis of variance for completely randomized experimental design. P-value <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results

The establishment of stable culture of primate NSCs

After 2 weeks of growth in serum-free DMEM/F12 containing basic fibroblast growth factor, epidermal growth factor and B27, the cells isolated from the subventricular zone of the abortion embryonic brain tissue of 2–3-month-old cynomolgus monkeys formed the neurosphere structure of distinct size, suspending in the medium (Supplementary Additional file 1). These cells were positive for Nestin, a molecular marker of NSCs (Supplementary Additional file 2). Some cells were inoculated on l-polylysine-coated slides and grown in DMEM/F12 containing 5% fetal bovine serum for 7 days. Immunochemical staining demonstrated that these cells were positive for MAP2, GFAP and Oligo (Figure 1), suggesting that these cells were NSCs, and they were able to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes.

Figure 1
figure 1

Differentiation of embryonic cynomolgus monkey brain neural stem cells: after induction by 5% fetal bovine serum for 7 days, the cells isolated from the subventricular zone of the abortion embryonic brain tissue of 2–3-month-old cynomolgus monkeys were positive for MAP2, GFAP and Oligo. The nuclei were stained in blue by Hoechst staining, the MAP2 and Oligo were stained in red by Cy3 labeled and the GFAP was stained in green by FITC labeled (× 200/ × 400).

The establishment of NSCs in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds

The NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds in the 96-well culture plate were examined under inverted phase contrast microscope, and the co-cultured cells were signaled by yellow arrow (Figure 2). After the growth of NSCs in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds for 7 days, the NSCs were positive for Nestin. NSCs formed the neurosphere structure in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds and the cells were positive for MAP2, GFAP and Oligo (Figure 3), suggesting that these cells were NSCs and they were able to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes.

Figure 2
figure 2

NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds in the 96-well culture plate were examined under inverted phase contrast microscope (the co-cultured cells were signaled by yellow arrow): cells morphology is not clear, and only the profiles of the cells were observed.

Figure 3
figure 3

Establishment and identification of NSCs in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds. After the growth of NSCs in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds for 7 days, the NSCs were positive for nestin. NSCs formed neurosphere structure in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds, and the cells were positive for MAP2, GFAP and Oligo based on immunofluorescence staining. The nuclei were stained in blue by Hoechst staining, the MAP2 and Oligo were stained in red by Cy3 labeled and the nestin and GFAP were stained in green by FITC labeled.

Transplantation of primate NSCs increased the survival of primate NSCs in injured spinal cord in rats

The SCI model in rats was established by damaging the T10 with a NYU MASCIS impactor. After careful removal of scar tissues, the dissected spinal cord was stained with hematoxylin and eosin (purple color). The histopathological changes of the injured spinal cord were presented in Figure 4. In the control group rats, we found that large cavities were observed in the injured spinal cord, and the boundaries between the white and gray matters disappeared (Figure 4, control). In the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group rats, extensive damage of the spinal cord was still observed in rats, but the cavities were smaller than those in the control group, and the cavities were filled with gliosis forming a glial scar. In addition, extensive cell degeneration was observed in the tissues surrounding the SCI region, and the boundaries between white and gray matters were not clear (Figure 4, peptide). In rats of the NSC transplant group, the cavities in the SCI region became even smaller than those of the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group and control group. However, the SCI region was still large, and the structure of the injury region was not clear. The glial scar in the NSC transplant group was dense compared with that of the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group, and extensive cell degeneration was still observed in tissues surrounding the SCI region (Figure 4, NSCs). In the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group, no significant cavities were observed, and the SCI region became much smaller than that of the other three groups. In addition, the dense glial scar was observed in the SCI region, and cell degeneration in tissues surrounding the SCI region was reduced (Figure 4, peptide+NSCs).

Figure 4
figure 4

Histopathological changes of rat-injured spinal cord observed with electron microscopy. After careful removal of scar tissues, the injured spinal cord was stained with hematoxylin and eosin (HE, purple color) to evaluate the histopathological changes. The major areas of tissue damage in the spinal cord were signaled by the panes. In the control group rats, large cavities were observed in the injured spinal cord; extensive damage of spinal cord was still observed in rats of the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group. In rats of the NSCs transplant group, the cavities in the SCI region became even smaller than those of the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group. No significant cavities were observed in the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group.

The NSCs were labeled with CM-DiI fluorescent dye before cell transplant into the injured spinal cord. The transplant of NSCs, self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds and NSCs cultured on self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds was conducted immediately after SCI. After 8 weeks of SCI and cell transplant, the transplanted NSCs were labeled with cell tracker CM-DiI. Fluorescence microscopy was used to detect the transplanted NSCs and fluorescence microscopy demonstrated that the transplanted NSCs labeled with CM-DiI were alive, which showed bright red fluorescence under the fluorescence microscope (Figure 5).

Figure 5
figure 5

Fluorescence microscopy was used to detect the transplanted NSCs. After 8 weeks of SCI and cell transplant, the transplanted NSCs were labeled with cell tracker CM-DiI. The image demonstrated that NSCs were alive, which showed bright red fluorescence under the fluorescence microscope. NSCs cultured on self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds were conducted immediately after spinal cord injury.

Transplantation of primate NSCs promoted the differentiation of NSCs into neurons and oligodendrocytes

NSCs in the NSC group rats mainly differentiated into astrocytes rather than neurons based on immunofluorescence assays. The nuclei were stained blue by Hoechst staining, and fluorescent labels include CM-DiI (red color) and FITC (green color), and the merged color is yellow. The results demonstrated that transplanted NSCs can differentiate into oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and neurons, and the number of oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and neurons is calculated by the ratio of specific cell marker Oligo, GFAP and MAP2, respectively (Figure 6). The percentage of cells expressing Oligo, GFAP or MAP2 was 4.65±0.43, 38.62±1.34 or 1.21±0.14, respectively. In the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group, NSCs differentiated into neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. The percentage of cells expressing Oligo, GFAP or MAP2 was 11.32±0.71, 41.62±2.25 or 7.75±2.35, respectively. The expression of Oligo, GFAP and MAP2 in the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group was significantly higher than that of the NSC group, suggesting that the transplanted NSCs in the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group had significantly higher differentiation ability.

Figure 6
figure 6

To explore the differentiation of NSCs by immunofluorescence. The nuclei were stained blue by Hoechst staining, and fluorescent labels include CM-DiI (red color) and FITC (green color), and the merged color is yellow. The results demonstrated that transplanted NSCs can differentiate into oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and neurons, and the number of oligodendrocytes, astrocytes and neurons is calculated by the ratio of specific cell marker Oligo, GFAP and MAP2, respectively. The expression of Oligo, GFAP and MAP2 in the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group was significantly higher than that of the NSC group.

Electron microscopy examination showed reduced number of axon and myelin degeneration in the control group. The number of axon in the NSC and the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold groups was higher than that in the control group. In addition, endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria are commonly observed in the axoplasm, and complete and intensive myelin was observed in regenerating axons in the NSC and the NSC plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold groups (Figure 7). Oligodendrocyte surrounded the axonal myelin (Figure 7). Myelin staining showed normal myelin structure in blue (Figure 8). Compared with the control and the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold groups, numerous myelin formed intensive organization in the injured area (Figure 8).

Figure 7
figure 7

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) examination of axons and myelin in injured spinal cord. The structure of axons and myelin in the injured area of T10 (control group, peptide nanofiber scaffold transplant group, NSCs transplant group and peptide+NSCs transplant group) was based on electron microscopy examination. The number of axon in the NSCs and the NSCs plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold transplant groups was higher than that in the control group; endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria are commonly observed in the axoplasm, and complete and intensive myelin was observed in regenerating axons in the NSCs and the NSCs plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold transplant groups.

Figure 8
figure 8

The number and organization of myelin in the injured area of T10 based on toluidine blue staining. Myelin is stained in blue. Compared with the control and the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold groups, numerous myelin formed intensive organization in the NSCs transplant group and peptide+NSCs transplant group injured area.

The transplantation of primate NSCs cultured in assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds significantly improved the BBB locomotor score of hind limbs in rats

The BBB score of hind limbs of the rats before SCI was defined as 21. One day after SCI, the hind limb of all the rats lost function, and the BBB score was defined as 0. The animal moved on the abdomen with forelimbs to drag the body and had incontinence a day after SCI. From 5 weeks to 8 weeks after SCI, BBB scores of NSCs plus self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group were higher than the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group and the NSCs group; BBB scores of self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group and NSCs group were higher than the control group; the BBB score of the self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold group was not statistically different as compared with the NSCs group (Figure 9 and Table 1).

Figure 9
figure 9

Comparison of the Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor score of hind limbs between rats of the four groups. *P<0.05 vs control group; #P<0.05 vs self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold transplant group; P<0.05 vs NSCs transplant group.

Table 1 The Basso, Beattie and Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor score of hind limbs of the four group rats

Discussion

In recent years, tissue engineering provides a novel way for the cell transplantation. The tissue engineering scaffold material is one of the major breakthroughs of tissue engineering. The tissue engineering materials provide a relatively stable microenvironment for the survival and differentiation of transplanted cells such as NSCs. The tissue engineering scaffold materials include synthetic biodegradable polymers such as polylactic acid, polyglycolic acid and copolymer of polylactic acid, polyglycolic acid, polyurethane and polyethyleneoxide, as well as bio-derived materials such as collagen, amino creeping glycans, fibrin glue, hyaluronic acid, chitin and natural extracellular matrix from cellular extracts.7, 8, 9 The self-assembling peptide gel is a polypeptide RADA16 consisting of amino acid residues linked by peptide bonds. The polypeptide RADA16 forms an artificial peptide scaffold by self-assembling in neutral pH salt solution. The main cohesion strength in the self-assembling peptide scaffold is hydrogen, and the chemical structural formula of the self-assembling peptide scaffold is AcN-RADARADARADARADA-CNH2.10 The diameter of the self-assembling peptide scaffold fiber is at the nano level, which allows the growth of cells in a three-dimensional structure. This peptide scaffold can be assembled in normal physical pH ranges, making its usage easy. In addition, the self-assembling peptide scaffold can be completely absorbed within a certain period of time after transplanted into the body, without irritation and foreign body response. Gelain et al.4 inoculated rat NSCs on the culture plate covered by self-assembling peptide scaffolds and observed the growth and differentiation of the NSCs. Using scanning electron microscope, the authors found that the NSCs grow well on the self-assembling peptide scaffolds and a high ratio of NSC-differentiating neurons and oligodendrocytes in the self-assembling peptide scaffolds, suggesting the primary construction of the neural tissue engineering complex. In the present study, we observed that the primate NSCs grow well on the self-assembling peptide scaffolds to form neurospheres. Because of the three-dimensional structure of the self-assembling peptide scaffolds, the NSCs were not well shown under phase contrast microscope. Immunostaining demonstrated that the cells growing on the self-assembling peptide scaffolds were positive for Nestin, suggesting that these cells are NSCs and their stem cell ability was not affected by the self-assembling peptide scaffolds. Immunostaining also demonstrated that the NSCs growing on the self-assembling peptide scaffolds differentiated at a high rate to three types of cells, neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. Taken together, NSCs can properly grow and differentiate on self-assembling peptide scaffolds, which is consistent with previous study.5

Current studies on the cell biology of NSCs are mainly conducted in rodents and humans. Primate NSCs are not well investigated because of limited sample source. Previous studies have identified both similarities and differences in the biology between rodent and human NSCs. Therefore, it is difficult to make convincing conclusions on the biology of primate NSCs. Understanding the biological characteristics and function of primate NSCs and comparing the primate NSCs with rodent and human NSCs are useful to link the gaps between rodent and human NSCs and to make consistent conclusions. Because of the high costs of animal models of primates, most human NSC experiments have been conducted in rodents. Investigation of the growth and differentiation of primate NSCs in rats of SCI allows us to better understand the mechanism and treatment of primate SCI. In the present study, we observed that the primate NSCs grow well on the self-assembling peptide scaffolds to form neurospheres and differentiated into neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes. The transplantation of primate NSCs into the injured spinal cord of rats promoted the recovery of motor function in rats. No significant differences in the biology and effects on the treatment of SCI were identified between primate, human and rodent NSCs.

Previous studies suggest that NSCs differentiated into neurons in the host body to replace injured neurons, reconnect with host neurons and rebuild neuronal circuits in the host, which are the main mechanisms underlying the repair of SCI by NSCs. Ostenfeld and Svendsen11 found that NSCs, after being transplanted into injured rat spinal cord, differentiated into exogenous neurons in rats, connected with the rat nervous system and formed new synapses. Ogawa et al.12 transplanted NSCs isolated from Tα-1-EYFP transgenic rat embryos to the injured spinal cord in rats and observed synaptic connections between Tα-1-EYFP-positive and -negative neurons.12 In addition, the axon remyelination, which can restore the integrity of neural structures, is also involved in the SCI repair. Akiyama et al.13 transplanted in vitro amplified adult NSCs into the demyelinated spinal cord in adult rats and observed extensive remyelination, and remyelinated axon can conduct nerve impulses at a nearly normal rate.13 Akiyama et al.13 transplanted adult NSCs into the demyelinating area of the injured spinal cord in rats and observed extensive remyelination in this area. Immunohistochemical staining also showed myelin-specific immunoreactivity. Liu et al.14 used retinoic acid to induce the differentiation of embryonic stem cells to oligodendrocyte-specific neural precursor cells and transplanted the neural precursor cells to rat spinal cord with myelination. The authors found that these neural precursor cells differentiated into oligodendrocytes that produced axonal myelin.14 In the present study, we found a significantly higher level of neuron differentiation and myelin production in rats transplanted with NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide scaffolds than the groups transplanted with NSCs or self-assembling peptide scaffolds, as well as the control group. Our results suggest that the NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide scaffolds differentiated into neurons and oligodendrocytes, which produced myelin in the injured spinal cord in rats.

Conclusion

In summary, our results suggest that transplantation of primate NSCs cultured in self-assembling peptide scaffolds can be used to repair the injured spinal cord and improve the motor function of spinal cord in rats, which may be due to improved growth and differentiation of NSCs. The transplantation of primate NSCs in rats and investigation of the differentiation of transplanted NSCs in the host provide a basis for the study of SCI repair using primate NSCs.

DATA ARCHIVING

There were no data to deposit.

References

  1. Thuret S, Moon L, Gage F . Therapeutic interventions after spinal cord injury. Nat Rev Neurosci 2006; 7: 628–643.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Wyndaele M, Wyndaele JJ . Incidence, prevalence and epidemiology of spinal cord injury: what learns a worldwide literature survey? Spinal Cord 2006; 44: 523–529.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Domingo A, Al-Yahya AA, Asiri Y, Eng JJ, Lam T . A systematic review of the effects of pharmacological agents on walking function in people with spinal cord injury. J Neurotrauma 2012; 29: 865–879.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Gelain F, Bottai D, Vescovi A, Zhang S . Designer self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds for adult mouse neural stem cell 3-dimensional cultures. PLoS ONE 2006; 1: e119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Courtine G, Bunge MB, Fawcett JW, Grossman RG, Kaas JH, Lemon R et al. Can experiments in nonhuman primates expedite the translation of treatments for spinal cord injury in humans? Nat Med 2007; 13: 561–566.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Basso DM, Beattie MS, Bresnahan JC, Anderson DK, Faden AI, Gruner JA et al. MASCIS evaluation of open field locomotor scores: effects of experience and teamwork on reliability. Multicenter Animal Spinal Cord Injury Study. J Neurotrauma 1996; 13: 343–359.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Williams DF . On the nature of biomaterials. Biomaterials 2009; 30: 5897–5909.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Straley KS, Foo CW, Heilshorn SC . Biomaterial design strategies for the treatment of spinal cord injuries. J Neurotrauma 2010; 27: 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Moore MJ, Friedman JA, Lewellyn EB, Mantila SM, Krych AJ, Ameenuddin S et al. Multiple-channel scaffolds to promote spinal cord axon regeneration. Biomaterials 2006; 27: 419–429.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kiley P, Zhao X, Vaughn M, Baldo MA, Bruce BD, Zhang S . Self-assembling peptide detergents stabilize isolated photosystem I on a dry surface for an extended time. PLoS Biol 2005; 3: e230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Ostenfeld T, Svendsen CN . Recent advances in stem cell neurobiology. Adv Tech Stand Neurosurg 2003; 28: 3–89.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Ogawa Y, Sawamoto K, Miyata T, Miyao S, Watanabe M, Nakamura M et al. Transplantation of in vitro-expanded fetal neural progenitor cells results in neurogenesis and functional recovery after spinal cord contusion injury in adult rats. J Neurosci Res 2002; 69: 925–933.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Akiyama Y, Honmou O, Kato T, Uede T, Hashi K, Kocsis JD . Transplantation of clonal neural precursor cells derived from adult human brain establishes functional peripheral myelin in the rat spinal cord. Exp Neurol 2001; 167: 27–39.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Liu S, Qu Y, Stewart TJ, Howard MJ, Chakrabortty S, Holekamp TF et al. Embryonic stem cells differentiate into oligodendrocytes and myelinate in culture and after spinal cord transplantation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2000; 97: 6126–6131.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.U1301223), Science and Technology Office of Guangdong Province (No.2011B031800019).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to H-y Shen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on the Spinal Cord website

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ye, Jc., Qin, Y., Wu, Yf. et al. Using primate neural stem cells cultured in self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffolds to repair injured spinal cords in rats. Spinal Cord 54, 933–941 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/sc.2016.36

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/sc.2016.36

Search

Quick links