Photothermal Response Induced by Nanocage-Coated Artificial Extracellular Matrix Promotes Neural Stem Cell Differentiation

by Jung, Seunghyun; Harris, Nathaniel; Niyonshuti, Isabelle I.; Jenkins, Samir V.; Hayar, Abdallah M.; Watanabe, Fumiya; Jamshidi-Parsian, Azemat; Chen, Jingyi; Borrelli, Michael J.; Griffin, Robert J.

Strategies to increase the proportion of neural stem cells that differentiate into neurons are vital for therapy of neurodegenerative disorders. In vitro, the extracellular matrix composition and topography have been found to be important factors in stem cell differentiation. We have developed a novel artificial extracellular matrix (aECM) formed by attaching gold nanocages (AuNCs) to glass coverslips. After culturing rat neural stem cells (rNSCs) on these gold nanocage-coated surfaces (AuNC-aECMs), we observed that 44.6% of rNSCs differentiated into neurons compared to only 27.9% for cells grown on laminin-coated glass coverslips. We applied laser irradiation to the AuNC-aECMs to introduce precise amounts of photothermally induced heat shock in cells. Our results showed that laser-induced thermal stimulation of AuNC-aECMs further enhanced neuronal differentiation (56%) depending on the laser intensity used. Response to these photothermal effects increased the expression of heat shock protein 27, 70, and 90 alpha in rNSCs. Analysis of dendritic complexity showed that this thermal stimulation promoted neuronal maturation by increasing dendrite length as thermal dose was increased. In addition, we found that cells growing on AuNC-aECMs post laser irradiation exhibited action potentials and increased the expression of voltage-gated Na+ channels compared to laminin-coated glass coverslips. These results indicate that the photothermal response induced in cells growing on AuNC-aECMs can be used to produce large quantities of functional neurons, with improved electrochemical properties, that can potentially be transplanted into a damaged central nervous system to provide replacement neurons and restore lost function.