Encapsulation of young donor age dopaminergic grafts in a GDNF-loaded collagen hydrogel further increases their survival, reinnervation, and functional efficacy after intrastriatal transplantation in hemi-Parkinsonian rats

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Biomaterials have been shown to significantly improve the outcome of cellular reparative approaches for Parkinson's disease in experimental studies because of their ability to provide transplanted cells with a supportive microenvironment and shielding from the host immune system. However, given that the margin for improvement in such reparative therapies is considerable, further studies are required to fully investigate and harness the potential of biomaterials in this context. Given that several recent studies have demonstrated improved brain repair in Parkinsonian models when using dopaminergic grafts derived from younger foetal donors, we hypothesized that encapsulating these cells in a supportive biomaterial would further improve their reparative efficacy. Thus, this study aimed to determine the impact of a GDNF-loaded collagen hydrogel on the survival, reinnervation, and functional efficacy of dopaminergic neurons derived from young donors. To do so, hemi-Parkinsonian (6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned) rats received intrastriatal transplants of embryonic day 12 cells extracted from the rat ventral mesencephalon either alone, in a collagen hydrogel, with GDNF, or in a GDNF-loaded collagen hydrogel. Methamphetamine-induced rotational behaviour was assessed at three weekly intervals for a total of 12 weeks, after which rats were sacrificed for postmortem assessment of graft survival. We found that, following intrastriatal transplantation to the lesioned striatum, the GDNF-loaded collagen hydrogel significantly increased the survival (4-fold), reinnervation (5.4-fold), and functional efficacy of the embryonic day 12 dopaminergic neurons. In conclusion, this study further demonstrates the significant potential of biomaterial hydrogel scaffolds for cellular brain repair approaches in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease.

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