Researchers from our group have just published (paper link here) work with a biodegradable composite that can be used to drive and enhance cell differentiation. Murine C2C12 myoblasts were cultured on these composites and characterised at different timepoints. Poly(lactic acid) (PLLA) was used to create composites with ZnO nanoparticles. PLLA is used in biomedical research and clinical applications for its good biocompatibility properties and because it degrades by hydrolysis in biological environments. Zinc has been shown to promote myoblast proliferation and differentiation. PhD student Ms Sara Trujillo has prepared this post explaining their work.
This work explores the idea of a dynamic system as a trigger of cell differentiation. We show that, initially, the ZnO particles are covered by a layer of PLLA but after around 8 days of hydrolytic degradation, this PLLA layer disappears and the particles become available (see figure 1 below).
We observed that, at short times, the differentiation of C2C12 myoblasts is similar between the neat PLLA surface and the nanocomposite. However, maintaining the culture for longer periods (around two weeks), significantly enhances the myogenic differentiation of C2C12 onto the composites compared to the bulk polymer (see figure 2 below). We characterized the system along time and showed that the release of zinc is too low to promote C2C12 differentiation and the changes in roughness measured are not enough to trigger differentiation. Therefore, we concluded that the sequential appearance of the particles on the surface, as time goes by, is the signal that boosts myogenic differentiation.