Engineering Biomaterials to Influence Oligodendroglial Growth, Maturation, and Myelin Production

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Millions of people suffer from damage or disease to the nervous system that results in a loss of myelin, such as through a spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis. Diminished myelin levels lead to further cell death in which unmyelinated neurons die. In the central nervous system, a loss of myelin is especially detrimental because of its poor ability to regenerate. Cell therapies such as stem or precursor cell injection have been investigated as stem cells are able to grow and differentiate into the damaged cells; however, stem cell injection alone has been unsuccessful in many areas of neural regeneration. Therefore, researchers have begun exploring combined therapies with biomaterials that promote cell growth and differentiation while localizing cells in the injured area. The regrowth of myelinating oligodendrocytes from neural stem cells through a biomaterials approach may prove to be a beneficial strategy following the onset of demyelination. This article reviews recent advancements in biomaterial strategies for the differentiation of neural stem cells into oligodendrocytes, and presents new data indicating appropriate properties for oligodendrocyte precursor cell growth. In some cases, an increase in oligodendrocyte differentiation alongside neurons is further highlighted for functional improvements where the biomaterial was then tested for increased myelination both in vitro and in vivo.

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