Nerve response to superelastic shape memory polyurethane aerogels


We have previously shown the suitability of aerogels as scaffolds for neuronal cells. Here, we report on the use of superelastic shape memory polyurethane aerogels (SSMPA). SSMPA have a distinctly different stiffness than previously reported aerogels. The soft and deformable nature of SSMPA allowed for radial compression of the aerogel induced by a custom designed apparatus. This radial compression changed the pore diameter and surface roughness (Sa) of SSMPA, while maintaining similar stiffness. Two varieties of SSMPA were used, Mix-14 and Mix-18, with distinctly different pore diameters and Sa. Radial compression led to a decreased pore diameter, which, in turn, decreased the Sa. The use of custom designed apparatus and two types of SSMPA allowed us to examine the influence of stiffness, pore size, and Sa on the extension of processes (neurites) by PC12 neuronal cells. PC12 cells plated on SSMPA with a higher degree of radial compression extended fewer neurites per cell when compared to other groups. However, the average length of the neurites was significantly longer when compared to the unrestricted group and to those extended by cells plated on SSMPA with less radial compression. These results demonstrate that SSMPA with 1.9 µm pore diameter, 1.17 µm Sa, and 203 kPa stiffness provides the optimum combination of physical parameters for nerve regeneration.

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