Principal Investigator: Prof. Charlotte A. E. Hauser

Poster Presenter: Yara Marghani, Sherin Abdelrahman, Cynthia O. Baldelamar Juarez, Dana M. Alhattab

Lab: Laboratory for Nanomedicine


Functionalized Ultra-Short Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel Scaffolds in Neural Tissue Engineering: Effects on Neuronal Functionality and Behavior




Traumatic injuries and age-related neurological disorders often result in irreversible disruption of brain parenchyma and neuronal loss, with limited treatment options available. However, ongoing research in cell-based therapies and regenerative medicine offers hope for various treatment options for many patients. The use of bioactive scaffolds holds promise for improving cell-replacement therapy by creating a supportive microenvironment that promotes cell survival, growth, differentiation, and connectivity. Synthetic hydrogels are particularly attractive for brain tissue engineering due to their versatility in chemical and physical modifications. In this study, we designed functionalized tetrameric ultra-short self-assembling peptides that incorporated extracellular matrix (ECM) structural and adhesion motifs such as collagen, fibronectin, and laminin. Our goal was to investigate their effects on neuronal functionality and behavior, specifically by assessing changes in metabolic activity, cytotoxicity, and the outgrowth of neuronal extensions. The results revealed an enhanced effect on the metabolic activity of ventral midbrain neurons encapsulated in collagen-functionalized peptide hydrogels compared to non-functionalized ones. However, there was no significant effect on either of the assessed parameters for cortical neurons encapsulated in the functionalized peptides compared to unmodified peptide scaffolds. While these results did not significantly impact neuronal behavior, it's crucial to note that further investigations are necessary to thoroughly understand the underlying molecular mechanisms and functional implications. Additional studies are needed to validate and build upon our initial findings, providing more insight into the potential applications of functionally modified ultra-short self-assembling peptide hydrogel scaffolds in advancing strategies for neural tissue engineering.