Novel crosslinked alginate/hyaluronic acid hydrogels for nerve tissue engineering

Artificial tissue engineering scaffolds can potentially provide support and guidance for the regrowth of severed axons following nerve injury. In this study, a hybrid biomaterial composed of alginate and hyaluronic acid (HA) was synthesized and characterized in terms of its suitability for covalent modification, biocompatibility for living Schwann cells and feasibility to construct three dimensional (3D) scaffolds. Carbodiimide mediated amide formation for the purpose of covalent crosslinking of the HA was carried out in the presence of calciumions that ionically crosslink alginate. Amide formation was found to be dependent on the concentrations of carbodiimide and calcium chloride. The double-crosslinked composite hydrogels display biocompatibility that is comparable to simple HA hydrogels, allowing for Schwann cell survival and growth. No significant difference was found between composite hydrogels made from different ratios of alginate and HA. A 3D BioPlotter™ rapid prototyping system was used to fabricate 3D scaffolds. The result indicated that combining HA with alginate facilitated the fabrication process and that 3D scaffolds with porous inner structure can be fabricated from the composite hydrogels, but not from HA alone. This information provides a basis for continuing in vitro and in vivo tests of the suitability of alginate/HA hydrogel as a biomaterial to create living cell scaffolds to support nerve regeneration.