The effect of acetylcholine-like biomimetic polymers on neuronal growth.
ABSTRACT Driven by clinical needs, nerve regeneration studies have recently become the focus of research and area of growth in tissue engineering. Biomimetic polymer synthesis and functional interface construction is a promising solution to induce neuritic sprouting and guide the regenerating nerve. However, few studies have been made on primary hippocampal neurons. In this study, a new type of acetylcholine-like biomimetic polymers for their potential in biomaterial-modulated nerve regeneration application is synthesized using click chemistry and free radical polymerization. The structure of the synthesized polymers includes a "bioactive" unit (acetylcholine-like unit) and a "bioinert" unit [poly(ethylene glycol) unit]. To explore the effects of the bioactive unit and the bioinert unit on neuronal growth, different ratios of the two initial monomers poly(ethylene glycol) monomethyl ether-glycidyl methacrylate (MePEG-GMA) and dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate (DMAEMA) were employed and five different polymers were synthesized. Their chemical structures were characterized using (1)H nuclear magnetic resonance and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, and their physical properties (including molecular weight, polydispersity, glass transition temperature, and melting point) were determined using gel permeation chromatography and differential scanning calorimetry. Culturing of the primary rat hippocampal neurons on the polymeric surfaces show that the ratio of the two initial monomers utilized for polymer synthesis significantly affects neuronal growth. Rat hippocampal neurons show different growth morphologies on different polymeric surfaces. The polymeric surface prepared with 1:60 (mol/mol) of MePEG-GMA to DMAEMA induces neuronal regenerative responses similar to that on poly-l-lysine, a very common benchmark material for nerve cell cultures. These results suggest that acetylcholine-like biomimetic polymers are potential biomaterials for neural engineering applications, particularly in modulating the growth of hippocampal neurons.