Recent trends in scaffold design have focused on materials that can provide appropriate guidance cues for particular cell types to modulate cell behavior. In this study highly aligned and electrically conductive nanofibers that can simultaneously provide topographical and electrical cues for cells were developed. Thereafter their potential to serve as functional scaffolds for skeletal muscle tissue engineering was investigated. Well-ordered nanofibers, composed of polyaniline (PANi) and poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL), were electrospun by introducing an external magnetic field in the collector region. Incorporation of PANi into PCL fibers significantly increased the electrical conductivity from a non-detectable level for the pure PCL fibers to 63.6 ± 6.6 mS cm-1 for the fibers containing 3 wt.% PANi (PCL/PANi-3). To investigate the synergistic effects of topographical and electrical cues using the electrospun scaffolds on skeletal myoblast differentiation, mouse C2C12 myoblasts were cultured on random PCL (R-PCL), aligned PCL (A-PCL), random PCL/PANi-3 (R-PCL/PANi) and aligned PCL/PANi-3 (A-PCL/PANi) nanofibers. Our results showed that the aligned nanofibers (A-PCL and A-PCL/PANi) could guide myoblast orientation and promote myotube formation (i.e. approximately 40% and 80% increases in myotube numbers) compared with R-PCL scaffolds. In addition, electrically conductive A-PCL/PANi nanofibers further enhanced myotube maturation (i.e. approximately 30% and 23% or 15% and 18% increases in the fusion and maturation indices) compared with non-conductive A-PCL scaffolds or R-PCL/PANi. These results demonstrated that a combined effect of both guidance cues was more effective than an individual cue, suggesting a potential use of A-PCL/PANi nanofibers for skeletal muscle regeneration.
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