A few recent studies demonstrated that graphene may have cytocompatibility with several cell types. However, when assessing cell behavior on graphene, there has been no precise control over the quality of graphene, number of graphene layers, and substrate surface coverage by graphene. In this study, using well-controlled monolayer graphene film substrates we tested the cytocompatibility of graphene for human neuroblastoma (SH-SY5Y) cell culture. A large-scale monolayer graphene film grown on Cu foils by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) could be successfully transferred onto glass substrates by wet transfer technique. We observed that graphene substrate could induce enhanced neurite outgrowth, both in neurite length and number, compared with control glass substrate. Interestingly, the positive stimulatory effect by graphene was achieved even in the absence of soluble neurogenic factor, retinoic acid (RA). Key genes relevant to cell neurogenesis, e.g., neurofilament light chain (NFL), were also upregulated on graphene. Inhibitor studies suggested that the graphene stimulation of cellular neurogenesis may be achieved through focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades. Our data indicate that graphene may be exploited as a platform for neural regenerative medicine, and the suggested molecular mechanism may provide an insight into the graphene control of neural cells.
Keywords: Graphene; Neural regenerative medicine; Neurite outgrowth; Neuronal gene expression; Retinoic acid.
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