A novel chondroitin sulfate hydrogel for nerve repair

Aaron William Conovaloff, Purdue University


Brachial plexus injuries affect numerous patients every year, with very debilitating results. The majority of these cases are very severe, and involve damage to the nerve roots. To date, repair strategies for these injuries address only gross tissue damage, but do not supply cells with adequate regeneration signals. As a result, functional recovery is often severely lacking. Therefore, a chondroitin sulfate hydrogel that delivers neurotrophic signals to damaged neurons is proposed as a scaffold to support nerve root regeneration. Capillary electrophoresis studies revealed that chondroitin sulfate can physically bind with a variety of neurotrophic factors, and cultures of chick dorsal root ganglia demonstrated robust neurite outgrowth in chondroitin sulfate hydrogels. Outgrowth in chondroitin sulfate gels was greater than that observed in control gels of hyaluronic acid. Furthermore, the chondroitin sulfate hydrogel’s binding activity with nerve growth factor could be enhanced by incorporation of a synthetic bioactive peptide, as revealed by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. This enhanced binding was observed only in chondroitin sulfate gels, and not in hyaluronic acid control gels. This enhanced binding activity resulted in enhanced dorsal root ganglion neurite outgrowth in chondroitin sulfate gels. Finally, the growth of regenerating dorsal root ganglia in these gels was imaged using label-free coherent anti-Stokes scattering microscopy. This technique generated detailed, high-quality images of live dorsal root ganglion neurites, which were comparable to fixed, F-actin-stained samples. Taken together, these results demonstrate the viability of this chondroitin sulfate hydrogel to serve as an effective implantable scaffold to aid in nerve root regeneration.




Panitch, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Biomedical engineering|Materials science

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