Subacute Tissue Response to 3D Graphene Oxide Scaffolds Implanted in the Injured Rat Spinal Cord

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The increasing prevalence and high sanitary costs of lesions affecting the central nervous system (CNS) at the spinal cord are encouraging experts in different fields to explore new avenues for neural repair. In this context, graphene and its derivatives are attracting significant attention, although their toxicity and performance in the CNS in vivo remains unclear. Here, the subacute tissue response to 3D flexible and porous scaffolds composed of partially reduced graphene oxide is investigated when implanted in the injured rat spinal cord. The interest of these structures as potentially useful platforms for CNS regeneration mainly relies on their mechanical compliance with neural tissues, adequate biocompatibility with neural cells in vitro and versatility to carry topographical and biological guidance cues. Early tissue responses are thoroughly investigated locally (spinal cord at C6 level) and in the major organs (i.e., kidney, liver, lung, and spleen). The absence of local and systemic toxic responses, along with the positive signs found at the lesion site (e.g., filler effect, soft interface for no additional scaring, preservation of cell populations at the perilesional area, presence of M2 macrophages), encourages further investigation of these materials as promising components of more efficient material-based platforms for CNS repair.