University of New Hampshire
Mentor: Dr. Kyung Jae Jeong, Department of Chemical Engineering
Light-Triggered Differentiation of Human Neural Stem Cells to Neurons
Neural injuries such as spinal cord injuries affect a large number of the human population world-wide and in general are considered irreparable due to the lack of regenerative capacity of the neural tissues. Various tissue engineering approaches have been employed to differentiate human neural stem cells (hNSCs) into neurons for the purpose of using them in regenerating the damaged neural tissues. Recently, electrical stimulation was found effective to enhance neuronal differentiation of hNSCs. However, the previous methods require complex instrumentations or harmful photo-irradiation. The main hypothesis of this study is that hNSCs will preferentially differentiate into neurons when cultured on dopamine-modified titanium oxide (TiO2) substrates followed by irradiation by visible light (~ 600nm). To test this hypothesis, we will prepare a substrate coated with TiO2 nanoparticles, and modify them with dopamine to reduce the UV-range band gap of TiO2 to the visible light range. hNSCs will be cultured on these substrates with intermittent light irradiation. The differentiation of hNSCs will be monitored by fluorescence microscopy and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The results from this research are expected to contribute significantly to the field of neural tissue engineering.