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Stem Cells International
Volume 2018, Article ID 3410168, 12 pages
Research Article

The Efficacy of Graphene Foams for Culturing Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Their Differentiation into Dopaminergic Neurons

1Inspired Materials & Stem-Cell Based Tissue Engineering Laboratory (IMSTEL), Department of Metallurgical, Materials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W University Avenue, El Paso, TX 79968, USA
2Department of Biomedical Sciences, Center of Emphasis in Diabetes and Metabolism, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, 5001 El Paso Drive, El Paso, TX 79905, USA
3Border Biomedical Research Center, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W University Avenue, El Paso, TX 79968, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Munmun Chattopadhyay; ude.cshutt@yayhdapottahc.numnum and Binata Joddar; ude.petu@raddojb

Received 19 February 2018; Revised 3 May 2018; Accepted 17 May 2018; Published 3 June 2018

Academic Editor: Daniel Pelaez

Copyright © 2018 Nishat Tasnim et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The implantation of stem cells in vivo is the ideal approach for the restoration of normal life functions, such as replenishing the decreasing levels of affected dopaminergic (DA) neurons during neurodegenerative disease conditions. However, combining stem cells with biomaterial scaffolds provides a promising strategy for engineering tissues or cellular delivery for directed stem cell differentiation as a means of replacing diseased/damaged tissues. In this study, mouse mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were differentiated into DA neurons using sonic hedgehog, fibroblast growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, while they were cultured within collagen-coated 3D graphene foams (GF). The differentiation into DA neurons within the collagen-coated GF and controls (collagen gels, plastic) was confirmed using β-III tubulin, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), and NeuN positive immunostaining. Enhanced expression of β-III tubulin, TH, and NeuN and an increase in the average neurite extension length were observed when cells were differentiated within collagen-coated GF in comparison with collagen gels. Furthermore, these graphene-based scaffolds were not cytotoxic as MSC seemed to retain viability and proliferated substantially during in vitro culture. In summary, these results suggest the utility of 3D graphene foams towards the differentiation of DA neurons from MSC, which is an important step for neural tissue engineering applications.