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Self-healing polysaccharide-based hydrogels as injectable carriers for neural stem cells.


Self-healing injectable hydrogels can be formulated as three-dimensional carriers for the treatment of neurological diseases with desirable advantages, such as avoiding the potential risks of cell loss during injection, protecting cells from the shearing force of injection. However, the demands for biocompatible self-healing injectable hydrogels to meet above requirements and to promote the differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs) into neurons remain a challenge. Herein, we developed a biocompatible self-healing polysaccharide-based hydrogel system as a novel injectable carrier for the delivery of NSCs. N-carboxyethyl chitosan (CEC) and oxidized sodium alginate (OSA) are the main backbones of the hydrogel networks, denoted as CEC-l-OSA hydrogel ("l" means "linked-by"). Owing to the dynamic imine cross-links formed by a Schiff reaction between amino groups on CEC and aldehyde groups on OSA, the hydrogel possesses the ability to self-heal into a integrity after being injected from needles under physiological conditions. The CEC-l-OSA hydrogel in which the stiffness mimicking nature brain tissues (100~1000 Pa) can be finely tuned to support the proliferation and neuronal differentiation of NSCs. The multi-functional, injectable, and self-healing CEC-l-OSA hydrogels hold great promises for NSC transplantation and further treatment of neurological diseases.