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Multiwalled Carbon Nanotube- Poly(2-Hydroxyethyl Methacrylate) Composite Conduitfor Peripheral Nerve Repair

Arslantunalı, Damla
There are different methods used in the surgical treatment of peripheral nerve injury. In this respect, end-to-end surgical reconnection of the damaged nerve ends or autologous nerve grafts are applied as soon as possible after the injury. When autologous tissue transplant is considered, there are some medical devices available generally for relatively short nerve defects. As a solution for this problem, different tissue engineered nerve conduits have been developed. In the current study, a pHEMA hydrogel membranes were designed to mimic the tubular conduits and they were loaded with 1-6% (w/w) multiwalled carbon nanotubes (mwCNTs) to obtain electrical conductivity. The most important reason for the use of CNTs in peripheral nerve injury is their electrical conductivity. Within the context of the study, the degree of swelling, contact angles, electrical conductivity and mechanical properties of the membranes were analyzed. As the amount of mwCNTs were increased, the contact angles, indicating higher hydrophobicity and the electrical conductivity increased. The tensile test of the mwCNT-pHEMA composite membranes showed that the membranes have viscoelastic structure similar to the structure of the soft tissues. The structure of the mwCNT containing pHEMA composite membranes were analyzed with different microscopical techniques such as SEM, CSLM and microCT. MwCNTs on the hydrogels were morphologically similar to the original. SEM micrographs also showed that the mwCNTs were grouped in clumps on hydrogel surfaces. No mwCNT leaching was observed because the mwCNTs were embedded in the hydrogel, therefore, no cytotoxic effect was observed. The pHEMA hydrogels were porous which is suitable for transportation of materials, electrolytes and gas needed for cell nutrition and growth. In the in vitro studies, SHSY5Y neuroblastoma cells were seeded on the membranes to determine the sustainability and effects of the membranes on the cell growth. Electrical potential of 1 and 2 V were used to stimulate the cells. Microscopical examination with SEM and CSLM, and MTT viability assay were used. The SHSY5Y neuroblastoma cells were attached and proliferated on both the composite and the hydrogel membranes. The cells on pHEMA membranes without mwCNTs, however, were not able to survive after application of electrical potential. As a conclusion, use of composite membranes in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury as a nerve conduit is appropriate. Electrical stimulation, however, did not induce the cells to align in contrast to the expected results, indicating potential and current application regime needs to be optimized to obtain the desired results.