Bidirectional cell-matrix interaction dictates neuronal network formation in a brain-mimetic 3D scaffold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) derived neurons are emerging as a powerful tool for studying neurobiology, disease pathology, and modeling. Due to the lack of platforms available for housing and growing hPSC-derived neurons, a pressing need exists to tailor a brain-mimetic 3D scaffold that recapitulates tissue composition and favourably regulates neuronal network formation. Despite the progress in engineering biomimetic scaffolds, an ideal brain-mimetic scaffold is still elusive. We bioengineered a physiologically relevant 3D scaffold by integrating brain-like extracellular matrix (ECM) components and chemical cues. Culturing hPSCs-neurons in hyaluronic acid (HA) gels and HA-chondroitin sulfate (HA-CS) composite gels showed that the CS component prevails as the predominant factor for the growth of neuronal cells, albeit to modest efficacy. Covalent grafting of dopamine (DA) moieties to the HA-CS gel (HADA-CS) enhanced the scaffold stability and stimulated the gel's remodeling properties by entrapping cell-secreted laminin, and binding brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Neurons cultured in the scaffold expressed Col1, Col11, and ITGB4; important for cell adhesion and cell-ECM signaling. Thus, the HA-CS scaffold with integrated chemical cues (DA) supported neuronal growth and network formation. This scaffold offers a valuable tool for tissue engineering and disease modeling and helps in bridging the gap between animal models and human diseases by providing biomimetic neurophysiology. Statement of significance: Developing a brain mimetic 3D scaffold that supports neuronal growth could potentially be useful to study neurobiology, disease pathology, and disease modeling. However, culturing human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) and human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) derived neurons in a 3D matrix is extremely challenging as neurons are very sensitive cells and require tailored composition, viscoelasticity, and chemical cues. This article identified the key chemical cues necessary for designing neuronal matrix that trap the cell-produced ECM and neurotrophic factors and remodel the matrix and supports neurite outgrowth. The tailored injectable scaffold possesses self-healing/shear-thinning property which is useful to design injectable gels for regenerative medicine and disease modeling that provides biomimetic neurophysiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-323
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date10 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Brain-mimetic hydrogel scaffold
  • Chondroitin sulfate
  • Dopamine
  • Human pluripotent stem cells
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Neuronal network

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Bidirectional cell-matrix interaction dictates neuronal network formation in a brain-mimetic 3D scaffold'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this