There is currently no cure for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI). While many promising approaches are being tested in clinical trials, the complexity of SCI limits several of these approaches from aiding complete functional recovery. Several different categories of biomaterials are investigated for their ability to guide axonal regeneration, to deliver proteins or small molecules locally, or to improve the viability of transplanted stem cells. The purpose of this study is to provide a brief overview of SCI, present the different categories of biomaterial scaffolds that direct and guide axonal regeneration, and then focus specifically on electrospun fiber guidance scaffolds. Much like other polymer guidance approaches, electrospun fibers can retain and deliver therapeutic drugs. The experimental section presents new data showing the incorporation of two therapeutic drugs into electrospun poly-L-lactic acid fibers. Two different concentrations of either riluzole or neurotrophin-3 were loaded into the electrospun fibers to examine the effect of drug concentration on the physical characteristics of the fibers (fiber alignment and fiber diameter). Overall, the drugs were successfully incorporated into the fibers and the release was related to the loading concentration. The fiber diameter decreased with the inclusion of the drug, and the decreased diameter was correlated with a decrease in fiber alignment. Subsequently, the study includes considerations for successful incorporation of a therapeutic drug without changing the physical properties of the fibers.
Cells Tissues Organs202, 116–135 (2016).