A scaffold containing zinc oxide for Schwann cell-mediated axon growth

Scott Stratton, Shuo Wang, Sharareh Hashemi, Yelena Pressman, James Nanchanatt, Martin Oudega, Treena Livingston Arinzeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Schwann cells (SCs) transplanted in damaged nervous tissue promote axon growth, which may support the recovery of function lost after injury. However, SC transplant-mediated axon growth is often limited and lacks direction. Approach. We have developed a zinc oxide (ZnO) containing fibrous scaffold consisting of aligned fibers of polycaprolactone (PCL) with embedded ZnO nanoparticles as a biodegradable, bifunctional scaffold for promoting and guiding axon growth. This scaffold has bifunctional properties wherein zinc is released providing bioactivity and ZnO has well-known piezoelectric properties where piezoelectric materials generate electrical activity in response to minute deformations. In this study, SC growth, SC-mediated axon extension, and the presence of myelin basic protein (MBP), as an indicator of myelination, were evaluated on the scaffolds containing varying concentrations of ZnO in vitro. SCs and dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons were cultured, either alone or in co-culture, on the scaffolds. Main results. Findings demonstrated that scaffolds with 1 wt.% ZnO promoted the greatest SC growth and SC-mediated axon extension. The presence of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was also determined. BDNF increased in co-cultures for all scaffolds as compared to SCs or DRGs cultured alone on all scaffolds. For co-cultures, cells on scaffolds with low levels of ZnO (0.5 wt.% ZnO) had the highest amount of BDNF as compared to cells on higher ZnO-containing scaffolds (1 and 2 wt.%). MBP immunostaining was only detected in co-cultures on PCL control scaffolds (without ZnO). Significance. The results of this study demonstrate the potential of the ZnO-containing scaffolds for SC-mediated axon growth and its potential for use in nervous tissue repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number066009
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


  • Schwann cell
  • axon growth
  • dorsal root ganglia
  • electrospun fibers
  • zinc
  • zinc oxide


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