The use of biodegradable synthetic polyesters as peripheral nerve conduits and the "contact guidance" effect of nano-sized fibrous matrices on neurite outgrowth have been reported; however, no literature exists regarding how these matrices regulate neurite growth-related gene expression. Such information would be useful in the evaluation of the biological applicability of various materials. In this study, two biodegradable synthetic polyesters (PLLA and PBSA) were employed to fabricate a series of micro/nano-fibrous membranes that were used as culture matrices for the in vitro growth of PC12 cells in response to nerve growth factor (NGF). Cell adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation were analyzed in addition to neurite outgrowth- and apoptosis-related gene expression. Our results show that cells grown on electrospun PBSA membranes proliferate to a greater extent than cells cultured on tissue culture polystyrene (TCPS) and other prepared membranes. Compared to TCPS and PBSA, growth on an electrospun PLLA membrane triggers higher GAP43 and MAP2 gene expression in PC12 cells. No significant effect of membrane type on apoptosis-related gene expression was observed. These results indicate that electrospun nano-fibrous PLLA mats are more suitable for use as nerve conduit matrices than conventional non/micro-fibrous PLLA or PBSA membranes.
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