The surface of aligned, electrospun poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) fibers was chemically modified to determine if surface chemistry and hydrophilicity could improve neurite extension from chick dorsal root ganglia. Specifically, diethylenetriamine (DTA, for amine functionalization), 2-(2-aminoethoxy)ethanol (AEO, for alcohol functionalization), or GRGDS (cell adhesion peptide) were covalently attached to the surface of electrospun fibers. Water contact angle measurements revealed that surface modification of electrospun fibers significantly improved fiber hydrophilicity compared to unmodified fibers (p < 0.05). Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of fibers revealed that surface modification changed fiber topography modestly, with DTA modified fibers displaying the roughest surface structure. Degradation of chemically modified fibers revealed no change in fiber diameter in any group over a period of seven days. Unexpectedly, neurites from chick DRG were longest on fibers without surface modification (1651 ± 488 μm) and fibers containing GRGDS (1560 ± 107 μm). Fibers modified with oxygen plasma (1240 ± 143 μm) or DTA (1118 ± 82 μm) produced shorter neurites than the GRGDS or unmodified fibers, but were not statistically shorter than unmodified and GRGDS modified fibers. Fibers modified with AEO (844 ± 151 μm) were significantly shorter than unmodified and GRGDS modified fibers (p<0.05). Based on these results, we conclude that fiber hydrophilic enhancement alone on electrospun PLLA fibers does not enhance neurite outgrowth. Further work must be conducted to better understand why neurite extension was not improved on more hydrophilic fibers, but the results presented here do not recommend hydrophilic surface modification for the purpose of improving neurite extension unless a bioactive ligand is used
PLoS One10, (2015).