Carbon nanofibers possess excellent conductivity properties, which may be beneficial in the design of more effective neural prostheses; however, limited evidence on their cytocompatibility properties currently exists. The objective of the present in vitro study was to determine cytocompatibility properties of formulations containing carbon nanofibers pertinent to neural implant applications. Substrates were prepared from four different types of carbon fibers, two with nanoscale diameters (nanophase, or less than or equal to 100nm) and two with conventional diameters (or greater than 100nm). Within these two categories, both a high and a low surface energy fiber were investigated and tested. Carbon fibers were compacted in a manual hydraulic press via a uniaxial loading cycle. Astrocytes (glial scar tissue-forming cells) were seeded onto the substrates for adhesion, proliferation, and long-term function studies (such as total intracellular protein and alkaline phosphatase activity). Results provided the first evidence that astrocytes preferentially adhered and proliferated on carbon fibers that had the largest diameter and the lowest surface energy. Based on these results, composite substrates were also formed using different weight percentages (0-25wt%) of the nanophase, high surface energy fibers in a polycarbonate urethane matrix. Results provided the first evidence of decreased adhesion of astrocytes with increasing weight percents of the high surface energy carbon nanofibers in the polymer composite; this further demonstrates that formulations containing carbon fibers in the nanometer regime may limit astrocyte functions leading to decreased glial scar tissue formation. Positive interactions with neurons, and, at the same time, limited astrocyte functions leading to decreased gliotic scar tissue formation are essential for increased neuronal implant efficacy. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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