In vitro regulation of neural differentiation and axon growth by growth factors and bioactive nanofibers

Hayley J. Lam, Shyam Patel, Aijun Wang, Julia Chu, Song Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Human embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived neural cells are a potential cell source for neural tissue regeneration. Understanding the biochemical and biophysical regulation of neural differentiation and axon growth will help us develop cell therapies and bioactive scaffolds. We demonstrated that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF) had different effects on human ESC differentiation into neural cells. EGF was more effective in inducing expression of neuron and glial markers and cell extensions. In addition to biochemical cues, poly(l-lactic acid) scaffolds with aligned nanofibers increased axon growth from ESC-derived neural cells, demonstrating the significant effects of biophysical guidance at nanoscale. To combine the biochemical and biophysical cues, bFGF and EGF were either adsorbed or bound to heparin on nanofibrous scaffolds. EGF, but not bFGF, was effectively adsorbed onto nanofibers. However, adsorbed EGF and bFGF did not effectively enhance axon growth. In contrast, immobilization of bFGF or EGF onto nanofibers using heparin as the adapter molecule significantly promoted axon growth. This study elucidated the effect of bFGF and EGF in neural differentiation and axon growth, and demonstrated a method to immobilize active bFGF and EGF onto aligned nanofibers to promote neural tissue regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2641-2648
Number of pages8
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Medicine(all)


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