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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jun 6;97(12):6728-33.

Extensive neurite outgrowth and active synapse formation on self-assembling peptide scaffolds.

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  • 1Center for Biomedical Engineering 56-341, Department of Biology, Center for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307, USA.


A new type of self-assembling peptide (sapeptide) scaffolds that serve as substrates for neurite outgrowth and synapse formation is described. These peptide-based scaffolds are amenable to molecular design by using chemical or biotechnological syntheses. They can be tailored to a variety of applications. The sapeptide scaffolds are formed through the spontaneous assembly of ionic self-complementary beta-sheet oligopeptides under physiological conditions, producing a hydrogel material. The scaffolds can support neuronal cell attachment and differentiation as well as extensive neurite outgrowth. Furthermore, they are permissive substrates for functional synapse formation between the attached neurons. That primary rat neurons form active synapses on such scaffold surfaces in situ suggests these scaffolds could be useful for tissue engineering applications. The buoyant sapeptide scaffolds with attached cells in culture can be transported readily from one environment to another. Furthermore, these peptides did not elicit a measurable immune response or tissue inflammation when introduced into animals. These biological materials created through molecular design and self assembly may be developed as a biologically compatible scaffold for tissue repair and tissue engineering.

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