Fabrication of biocompatible free-standing nanopatterned films for primary neuronal cultures†
Devising and constructing biocompatible devices for nervous system regeneration is an extremely challenging task. Besides tackling the issue of biocompatibility, biomaterials for neuroscience applications should mimic the complex environment of the extracellular matrix, which in vivo provides neurons with a series of cues and signals to guide cells towards their appropriate targets. In this work, a novel nanopatterned biocompatible poly-ε-caprolactone (PCL) film is realized to assist the attachment and growth of primary hippocampal neurons. Costly and time-consuming processes can be avoided using plasma-surface nanotexturing obtained by a mixed gas SF6/Ar at −5 °C. The intrinsic composition and line topography of nanopatterned PCL ensure healthy development of the neuronal network, as shown by confocal microscopy, by analysing the expression of a range of neuronal markers typical of mature cultures, as well as by scanning electron microscopy. In addition, we show that surface nanopatterning improves differentiation of neurons compared to flat PCL films, while no neural growth was observed on either flat or nanopatterned substrates in the absence of a poly-D-lysine coating. Thus, we successfully optimized a nanofabrication protocol to obtain nanostructured PCL layers endowed with several mechanical and structural characteristics that make them a promising, versatile tool for future tissue engineering studies aimed at neural tissue regeneration.