Biocompatibility of pristine graphene for neuronal interface: Laboratory investigation

Deshdeepak Sahni, Andrew Jea, Javier A. Mata, Daniela C. Marcano, Ahilan Sivaganesan, Jacob M. Berlin, Claudio E. Tatsui, Zhengzong Sun, Thomas G. Luerssen, Shiyun Meng, Thomas A. Kent, James M. Tour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Object. Graphene possesses unique electrical, physical, and chemical properties that may offer significant potential as a bioscaffold for neuronal regeneration after spinal cord injury. The purpose of this investigation was to establish the in vitro biocompatibility of pristine graphene for interface with primary rat cortical neurons. Methods. Graphene films were prepared by chemical vapor deposition on a copper foil catalytic substrate and subsequent apposition on bare Permanox plastic polymer dishes. Rat neuronal cell culture was grown on graphene-coated surfaces, and cell growth and attachment were compared with those on uncoated and poly-D-lysine (PDL)-coated controls; the latter surface is highly favorable for neuronal attachment and growth. Live/dead cell analysis was conducted with flow cytometry using ethidium homodimer-1 and calcein AM dyes. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels - indicative of cytotoxicity - were measured as markers of cell death. Phase contrast microscopy of active cell culture was conducted to assess neuronal attachment and morphology. Results. Statistically significant differences in the percentage of live or dead neurons were noted between graphene and PDL surfaces, as well as between the PDL-coated and bare surfaces, but there was little difference in cell viability between graphene-coated and bare surfaces. There were significantly lower LDH levels in the graphene-coated samples compared with the uncoated ones, indicating that graphene was not more cytotoxic than the bare control surface. According to phase contrast microscopy, neurons attached to the graphene-coated surface and were able to elaborate long, neuritic processes suggestive of normal neuronal metabolism and morphology. Conclusions. Further use of graphene as a bioscaffold will require surface modification that enhances hydrophilicity to increase cellular attachment and growth. Graphene is a nanomaterial that is biocompatible with neurons and may have significant biomedical applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-583
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Biocompatibility
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Graphene
  • Nanomedicine
  • Neuron
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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