The influence of 3-dimensional (3D) scaffolds on growth, proliferation and finally neuronal differentiation is of great interest in order to find new methods for cell-based and standardised therapies in neurological disorders or neurodegenerative diseases. 3D structures are expected to provide an environment much closer to the in vivo situation than 2D cultures. In the context of regenerative medicine, the combination of biomaterial scaffolds with neural stem and progenitor cells holds great promise as a therapeutic tool. Culture systems emulating a three dimensional environment have been shown to influence proliferation and differentiation in different types of stem and progenitor cells. Herein, the formation and functionalisation of the 3D-microenviroment is important to determine the survival and fate of the embedded cells. Here we used PuraMatrix (RADA16, PM), a peptide based hydrogel scaffold, which is well described and used to study the influence of a 3D-environment on different cell types. PuraMatrix can be customised easily and the synthetic fabrication of the nano-fibers provides a 3D-culture system of high reliability, which is in addition xeno-free. Recently we have studied the influence of the PM-concentration on the formation of the scaffold. In this study the used concentrations of PM had a direct impact on the formation of the 3D-structure, which was demonstrated by atomic force microscopy. A subsequent analysis of the survival and differentiation of the hNPCs revealed an influence of the used concentrations of PM on the fate of the embedded cells. However, the analysis of survival or neuronal differentiation by means of immunofluorescence techniques posses some hurdles. To gain reliable data, one has to determine the total number of cells within a matrix to obtain the relative number of e.g. neuronal cells marked by βIII-tubulin. This prerequisites a technique to analyse the scaffolds in all 3-dimensions by a confocal microscope or a comparable technique like fluorescence microscopes able to take z-stacks of the specimen. Furthermore this kind of analysis is extremely time consuming. Here we demonstrate a method to release cells from the 3D-scaffolds for the later analysis e.g. by flow cytometry. In this protocol human neural progenitor cells (hNPCs) of the ReNcell VM cell line (Millipore USA) were cultured and differentiated in 3D-scaffolds consisting of PuraMatrix (PM) or PuraMatrix supplemented with laminin (PML). In our hands a PM-concentration of 0.25% was optimal for the cultivation of the cells, however the concentration might be adapted to other cell types. The released cells can be used for e.g. immunocytochemical studies and subsequently analysed by flow cytometry. This speeds up the analysis and more over, the obtained data rest upon a wider base, improving the reliability of the data.
Copyright © 2012 Journal of Visualized Experiments