Long-term stable cell culture is a critical tool to better understand cell function. Most adherent cell culture models require a polymer substrate coating of poly-lysine or poly-ornithine for the cells to adhere and survive. However, polypeptide-based substrates are degraded by proteolysis and it remains a challenge to maintain healthy cell cultures for extended periods of time. Here, we report the development of an enhanced cell culture substrate based on a coating of dendritic polyglycerol amine (dPGA), a non-protein macromolecular biomimetic of poly-lysine, to promote the adhesion and survival of neurons in cell culture. We show that this new polymer coating provides enhanced survival, differentiation and long-term stability for cultures of primary neurons or neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). Atomic force microscopy analysis provides evidence that greater nanoscale roughness contributes to the enhanced capacity of dPGA- coated surfaces to support cells in culture. We conclude that dPGA is a cytocompatible, functionally superior, easy to use, low cost and highly stable alternative to poly-cationic polymer cell culture substrate coatings such as poly-lysine and poly-ornithine.
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