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Carbon nanotube micropillars trigger guided growth of complex human neural stem cells networks


New strategies for spatially controlled growth of human neurons may provide viable solutions to treat and recover peripheral or spinal cord injuries. While topography cues are known to promote attachment and direct proliferation of many cell types, guided outgrowth of human neurites has been found difficult to achieve so far. Here, three-dimensional (3D) micropatterned carbon nanotube (CNT) templates are used to effectively direct human neurite stem cell growth. By exploiting the mechanical flexibility, electrically conductivity and texture of the 3D CNT micropillars, a perfect environment is created to achieve specific guidance of human neurites, which may lead to enhanced therapeutic effects within the injured spinal cord or peripheral nerves. It is found that the 3D CNT micropillars grant excellent anchoring for adjacent neurites to form seamless neuronal networks that can be grown to any arbitrary shape and size. Apart from clear practical relevance in regenerative medicine, these results using the CNT based templates on Si chips also can pave the road for new types of microelectrode arrays to study cell network electrophysiology.


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G. S. L. and L. Y-O. acknowledge the support from the Academy of Finland (Nos. 320090, 317437 and 286990, respectively). J. T. K. and T. J. acknowledge the support from the Finnish Cultural Foundation Pirkanmaa Regional Fund (No. 50151501) and the Central Fund (#00150312), respectively. S. N., T. J. and M. K. acknowledge the support from the Academy of Finland (S. N. and T. J. No. 312414 and M. K. No. 312409) and Business Finland (former Tekes, Human Spare Parts project). This work made use of the electron microscopy and clean-room facilities at the Centre of Microscopy and Nanotechnology, at the University of Oulu. The authors also acknowledge the Tampere Imaging Facility (TIF) and the Tampere CellTech Laboratories for their service.


Funding: Open access funding provided by University of Oulu including Oulu University Hospital.

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Correspondence to Gabriela S. Lorite.

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Lorite, G.S., Ylä-Outinen, L., Janssen, L. et al. Carbon nanotube micropillars trigger guided growth of complex human neural stem cells networks. Nano Res. 12, 2894–2899 (2019).

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  • carbon nanotubes
  • multiple cues
  • guided neurite outgrowth
  • human neural stem cells
  • neuronal networks