Various biophysical and biochemical factors are important for determining the fate of neural stem cells (NSCs). Among biophysical signals, topographical stimulation by micro/nanopatterns has been applied to control NSC differentiation. In this study, we developed a hierarchically patterned substrate (HPS) platform that can synergistically enhance the differentiation of human NSCs (hNSCs) by simultaneously providing microscale and nanoscale spatial controls to facilitate the alignment of the cytoskeleton and the formation of focal adhesions. The multiscale HPS was fabricated by combining microgroove patterns (groove size: 1.5 μm), prepared by a conventional photolithographic process, and nanopore patterns (pore diameter: 10 nm), prepared from cylinder-forming block copolymer thin films. The hNSCs grown on the HPS exhibited not only a highly aligned, elongated morphology, but also a greatly enhanced differentiation into neuronal and astrocyte lineages, compared to hNSCs on a flat substrate (FS) or single-type patterned substrates [microgroove patterned substrate (MPS) and nanopore patterned substrate (NPS)]. Interestingly, the application of the HPS directed hNSC differentiation toward neurons rather than astrocytes. The expression of focal adhesion proteins in hNSCs was also significantly increased on the HPS compared to the FS, MPS, and NPS, likely a result of the presence of more focal contact points provided by nanopore structures. Inhibition of both β1 integrin-mediated binding and the intracellular Rho-associated protein kinase pathway of hNSCs eliminated the beneficial effects of the HPS on focal adhesion formation and actin filament alignment, which subsequently reduced hNSC differentiation. More importantly, hNSCs on the HPS differentiated into functional neurons exhibiting sodium currents and action potentials. The multiscale, hierarchically patterned topography would be useful for the design of functional biomaterial scaffolds to potentiate NSC therapeutic efficacy.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)