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Polyethylene glycol in spinal cord injury repair: a critical review

Authors Lu X, Perera TH, Aria AB, Smith Callahan LA

Received 22 February 2018

Accepted for publication 7 May 2018

Published 27 July 2018 Volume 2018:10 Pages 37—49

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JEP.S148944

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Andrew Yee

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Bal Lokeshwar


Xi Lu,* T Hiran Perera,* Alexander B Aria, Laura A Smith Callahan

Department of Neurosurgery, Center for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, Houston, TX, USA

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Abstract: Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a synthetic biocompatible polymer with many useful properties for developing therapeutics to treat spinal cord injury. Direct application of PEG as a fusogen to the injury site can repair cell membranes, mitigate oxidative stress, and promote axonal regeneration to restore motor function. PEG can be covalently or noncovalently conjugated to proteins, peptides, and nanoparticles to limit their clearance by the reticuloendothelial system, reduce their immunogenicity, and facilitate crossing the blood–brain barrier. Cross-linking PEG produces hydrogels that can act as delivery vehicles for bioactive molecules including growth factors and cells such as bone marrow stromal cells, which can modulate the inflammatory response and support neural tissue regeneration. PEG hydrogels can be cross-linked in vitro or delivered as an injectable formulation that can gel in situ at the site of injury. Chemical and mechanical properties of PEG hydrogels are tunable and must be optimized for creating the most favorable delivery environment. Peptides mimicking extracellular matrix protein such as laminin and n-cadherin can be incorporated into PEG hydrogels to promote neural differentiation and axonal extensions. Different hydrogel cross-linking densities and stiffness will also affect the differentiation process. PEG hydrogels with a gradient of peptide concentrations or Young’s modulus have been developed to systematically study these factors. This review will describe these and other recent advancements of PEG in the field of spinal cord injury in greater detail.

Keywords: combinatorial methods, hydrogel, regenerative medicine, nanoparticles, fusogen, drug delivery

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