Effects of surface charges of graphene oxide on neuronal outgrowth and branching
Graphene oxides with different surface charges were fabricated from carboxylated graphene oxide by chemical modification with amino- (–NH2), poly-m-aminobenzene sulfonic acid- (–NH2/–SO3H), or methoxyl- (–OCH3) terminated functional groups. The chemically functionalized graphene oxides and the carboxylated graphene oxide were characterized by infrared spectroscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, UV-Vis spectrometry, ζ potential measurements, field emission scanning electron microscopy, and contact angle analyses. Subsequently, the resulting graphene oxides were used as substrates for culturing primary rat hippocampal neurons to investigate neurite outgrowth and branching. The morphological features of neurons that directly reflect their potential capability in synaptic transmission were characterized. The results demonstrate that the chemical properties of graphene oxide can be systematically modified by attaching different functional groups that confer known characteristics to the substrate. By manipulating the charge carried by the functionalized graphene oxides, the outgrowth and branching of neuronal processes can be controlled. Compared with neutral, zwitterionic, or negatively charged graphene oxides, positively charged graphene oxide was found to be more beneficial for neurite outgrowth and branching. The ability to chemically modify graphene oxide to control neurite outgrowth could be implemented clinically, especially in cases wherein long-term presence of outgrowth modulation is necessary.