The disruption of the blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB) following spinal cord injury contributes to inflammation and glial scarring that inhibits axon growth and diminishes the effectiveness of conduits transplanted to the injury site to promote this growth. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether scaffolds containing microvessels that exhibit BSCB integrity reduce inflammation and scar formation at the injury site and lead to increased axon growth. For these studies, a self-assembling peptide scaffold, RADA-16I, is used due to its established permissiveness to axon growth and ability to support vascularization. Immunocytochemistry and permeability transport assays verify the formation of tight-junction containing microvessels within the scaffold. Peptide scaffolds seeded with different concentrations of microvascular cells are then injected into a spinal contusion injury in rats to evaluate how microvessels affect axon growth and neurovascular interaction. The effect of the vascularized scaffold on inflammation and scar formation is evaluated by quantifying histological sections stained with ED-1 and GFAP, respectively. Our results indicate that the peptide scaffolds containing microvessels reduce inflammation and glial scar formation and increase the density of axons growing into the injury/transplant site. These results demonstrate the potential benefit of scaffold vascularization to treat spinal cord injury. Statement of Significance: This study evaluates the benefit of transplanting microvascular cells within a self-assembling peptide scaffold, RADA-16I, that has shown promise for facilitating regeneration in the central nervous system in previous studies. Our results indicate that vasculature featuring tight junctions that give rise to the blood-spinal cord barrier can be formed within the peptide scaffold both in vitro and in a rat model of a subacute contusion spinal cord injury. Histological analysis indicates that the presence of the microvessels encourages axon infiltration into the site of injury and reduces the area of astrocyte activation and inflammation. Overall, these results demonstrate the potential of vascularizing scaffolds for the repair of spinal cord injury.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Molecular Biology