Functionalized Carbon Nanotube and Graphene Oxide Embedded Electrically Conductive Hydrogel Synergistically Stimulates Nerve Cell Differentiation

Xifeng Liu, A. Lee Miller, Sungjo Park, Brian E. Waletzki, Zifei Zhou, Andre Terzic, Lichun Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Nerve regeneration after injury is a critical medical issue. In previous work, we have developed an oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) hydrogel incorporated with positive charges as a promising nerve conduit. In this study, we introduced cross-linkable bonds to graphene oxide and carbon nanotube to obtain the functionalized graphene oxide acrylate (GOa) and carbon nanotube poly(ethylene glycol) acrylate (CNTpega). An electrically conductive hydrogel was then fabricated by covalently embedding GOa and CNTpega within OPF hydrogel through chemical cross-linking followed by in situ reduction of GOa in l-ascorbic acid solution. Positive charges were incorporated by 2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyltrimethylammonium chloride (MTAC) to obtain rGOaCNTpega-OPF-MTAC composite hydrogel with both surface charge and electrical conductivity. The distribution of CNTpega and GOa in the hydrogels was substantiated by transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and strengthened electrical conductivities were determined. Excellent biocompatibility was demonstrated for the carbon embedded composite hydrogels. Biological evaluation showed enhanced proliferation and spreading of PC12 cells on the conductive hydrogels. After induced differentiation using nerve growth factor (NGF), cells on the conductive hydrogels were effectively stimulated to have robust neurite development as observed by confocal microscope. A synergistic effect of electrical conductivity and positive charges on nerve cells was also observed in this study. Using a glass mold method, the composite hydrogel was successfully fabricated into conductive nerve conduits with surficial positive charges. These results suggest that rGOa-CNTpega-OPF-MTAC composite hydrogel holds great potential as conduits for neural tissue engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14677-14690
Number of pages14
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number17
StatePublished - May 3 2017


  • biodegradable polymer
  • carbon nanotube
  • conductive hydrogel
  • graphene oxide
  • nerve regeneration
  • positive charge
  • tissue engineering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science


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