Introduction: An early substantial loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) is a common property of Alzheimer’s disease and the degeneration of functional BFCNs is related to learning and memory deficits. As a biocompatible and conductive scaffold for growth of neural stem cells, three-dimensional graphene foam (3D-GF) supports applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Although its effects on differentiation have been demonstrated, the effect of 3D-GF scaffold on the generation of BFCNs still remains unknown. Methods: In this study, we used 3D-GF as a culture substrate for neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and demonstrated that this scaffold material promotes the differentiation of BFCNs while maintaining excellent cell viability and proliferation. Results: Immunofluorescence analysis, real-time polymerase chain reaction, Western blotting, and ELISA revealed that the proportion of BFCNs at 21 days of differentiation reached approximately 30.5% on 3D-GF compared with TCPS group that only presented 9.7%. Furthermore, a cell adhesion study suggested that 3D-GF scaffold enhances the expression of adhesion proteins including vinculin, integrin, and N-cadherin. These findings indicate that 3D-GF scaffold materials are preferable candidates for the differentiation of BFCNs from NPCs. Conclusions: These results suggest new opportunities for the application of 3D-GF scaffold as a neural scaffold for cholinergic neurons therapies based on NPCs.

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