As a component of the central nervous system (CNS), spinal cord not only plays a crucial role in the maintenance of vital signs, but also preserves the proper functioning of motion and sensory system. Hence, injury of this delicate cord could significantly compromise the general health condition of patients, inevitably leading to considerable social-economic burdens. Directional microgrooves or microtube structures of biomimetic scaffold were adopted to mimic the physiological structure of spinal cord and reported to guide the regrowth of nerve. Based on the physiological and anatomical characteristics of the spinal cord, the corresponding biological scaffolds should meet specific requirements as good biocompatibility to promote the adhesion of nerve cells, high water content to meet the needs of cell metabolism, highly permeable and oriented 3D fiber structure to facilitate cell migration and guide the axonal extension, and good flexibility to resist deformation under various stresses when the spinal canal is opened.
Recently, the Liang Chen team who came from the First Affiliated Hospital of Soochow University, prepared an aligned GelMA hydrogel microfiber scaffold which constructed by synthesized photo-crosslinked GelMA and electrospinning technology for the repair of SCI. The high water content and elasticity of the mechanically soft scaffold can provide a favorable survival and metabolic environment for neuronal cells. In addition, the GelMA hydrogel electrospun fibers can promote cell proliferation, differentiation and axon directional growth. The immunohistochemical experiments in vivo demonstrated higher number of NSCs, neurons, synaptic connections and vascular endothelial cells, and less glial scar in the injury site. In summary, the GelMA hydrogel microfiber scaffold could be a promising candidate for pave the way toward the re-engineering of SCI, hopefully becoming possible to extrapolate this biomaterial to a range of applications in the future.