Cell therapy for spinal cord injuries offers the possibility of replacing lost cells after trauma to the central nervous system (CNS). In preclinical studies, synthetic hydrogels are often co-delivered to the injury site to support survival and integration of the transplanted cells. These hydrogels ideally mimic the mechanical and biochemical features of a healthy CNS extracellular matrix while also providing the possibility of localized drug delivery to promote healing. In this work, we synthesize peptide-functionalized polymers that contain both a peptide sequence for incorporation into self-assembled peptide hydrogels along with bioactive peptides that inhibit scar formation. We demonstrate that peptide hydrogels formulated with the peptide-functionalized polymers possess similar mechanical properties (soft and shear-thinning) as peptide-only hydrogels. Small angle neutron scattering analysis reveals that polymer-containing hydrogels possess larger inhomogeneous domains but small-scale features such as mesh size remain the same as peptide-only hydrogels. We further confirm that the integrated hydrogels containing bioactive peptides exhibit thrombin inhibition activity, which has previously shown to reduce scar formation in vivo. Finally, while the survival of encapsulated cells was poor, cells cultured on the hydrogels exhibited good viability. Overall, the described composite hydrogels formed from self-assembling peptides and peptide-modified polymers are promising, user-friendly materials for CNS applications in regeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Condensed Matter Physics