J Nanobiotechnology. 2023 Sep 4;21(1):316. doi: 10.1186/s12951-023-02001-2.
Spinal cord injury (SCI) is accompanied by loss of Zn2+, which is an important cause of glutamate excitotoxicity and death of local neurons as well as transplanted stem cells. Dental pulp stem cells (DPSCs) have the potential for neural differentiation and play an immunomodulatory role in the microenvironment, making them an ideal cell source for the repair of central nerve injury, including SCI. The zeolitic imidazolate framework 8 (ZIF-8) is usually used as a drug and gene delivery carrier, which can release Zn2+ sustainedly in acidic environment. However, the roles of ZIF-8 on neural differentiation of DPSCs and the effect of combined treatment on SCI have not been explored. ZIF-8-introduced DPSCs were loaded into gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) hydrogel and in situ injected into the injured site of SCI rats. Under the effect of ZIF-8, axon number and axon length of DPSCs-differentiated neuro-like cells were significantly increased. In addition, ZIF-8 protected transplanted DPSCs from apoptosis in the damaged microenvironment. ZIF-8 promotes neural differentiation and angiogenesis of DPSCs by activating the Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway, which is a promising transport nanomaterial for nerve repair.