The spinal cord plays an essential role in sensory processing and controlling movement, breathing, and other voluntary and involuntary body functions. As a component of the central nervous system, it communicates with the brain and other parts of the body through its numerous nerve bundles. Therefore, spinal cord injuries have serious consequences, including paralysis.
Given its complexity and poor regeneration capability, successful reconstruction of the spinal cord is a difficult undertaking. Biological scaffolds for this purpose must meet specific requirements: good biocompatibility to promote the adhesion of nerve cells; a high water content to meet the needs of cell metabolism; a highly permeable, oriented 3D fiber structure to facilitate cell migration and guide axonal extension; and good flexibility to resist deformation under various stresses when the spinal canal is opened.
Hydrogels, the most frequently used tissue engineering scaffold, address some of these requirements, but in order to mimic the axon fibers of the spinal cord, the processing technique must also be taken into account. Electrospinning offers a means to achieve directional fiber structure at the micro- and nanolevel.
Using electrospinning technology, a group of researchers have constructed a new hydrogel scaffold for spinal cord regeneration. The scaffold is based on gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), which is both biocompatible and photo-crosslinkable, imparting mechanical tunability and stability.