Neural stem cells (NSCs) have the capacity to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytes. Accordingly, NSCs hold great promise in drug screening and treatment of several common diseases. However, a major obstacle in applied stem cell research is the limitation of synthetic matrices for culturing stem cells. The objective of this study was to evaluate the suitability of recombinant spider silk (4RepCT) matrices for growth of NSCs. NSCs isolated from the cerebral cortices of mid-gestation rat embryos were cultured on either 4RepCT matrices or conventional poly-L-ornithine and fibronectin (P + F) coated polystyrene plates. From 48 h of culture, no significant differences in cell proliferation or viability were detected in NSC cultures on 4RepCT compared to control matrices (polystyrene plates coated with P + F). The NSCs retained an undifferentiated state, displaying low or no staining for markers of differentiated cells. Upon stimulation NSCs grown on 4RepCT differentiated efficiently into neuronal and astrocytic cells to virtually the same degree as control cultures, but a slightly less efficient oligodendrocyte differentiation was noted. We suggest that recombinant spider silk matrices provide a functional microenvironment and represent a useful tool for the development of new strategies in neural stem cell research.

This paper was originally published in Biomaterials (2012) 31, 7712-7717.

Download now