The success of neural tissue engineering therapies partially rely on the quality of transplanted cells engraftment and functional integration into the injured host tissues. In particular, cells are located in 3-dimensional (3D) microenvironments in vivo, where they are surrounded by other cells and by the extracellular matrix (ECM), whose components are organized mainly in nanostructures displaying specific bioactive motifs that regulate the cell homeostasis. It is therefore essential to develop scaffolds that create reproducible microenvironments in order to control and direct the cellular behavior and to promote specific cellular interactions.
Self-assembling peptides (Sapeptides) are made of short linear peptides, they are soluble and usually liquid when dissolved in water. They jellify when exposed to a triggering stimulus, that, in the case of sapeptides to be used in nanomedicine, could be a shift in temperature, pH, or hydrophobicity of the solvent. Cells can be mixed with sapeptide solutions prior self-assembling, and, can be embedded in true 3D substrates through subsequent gelation. By adopting the same peptide synthesis technique sapeptides can be quickly functionalized, and designed for specific biological applications: drug release, cell proliferation and survival, etc.