The mechanical rigidity and degradation rate of hydrogels utilized as cell transplantation vehicles have been regarded as critical factors in new tissue formation. However, conventional approaches to accelerate the degradation rate of gels deteriorate their function as a mechanical support in parallel. We hypothesized that adjusting the molecular weight distribution of polymers that are hydrolytically labile but capable of forming gels would allow one to alter the degradation rate of the gels over a broad range, while limiting the range of their elastic moduli (E). We investigated this hypothesis with binary alginate hydrogels formed from both ionically and covalently cross-linked partially oxidized (1% uronic acid residues), low [molecular weight (MW) approximately 60,000 g/mol] and high MW alginates (MW approximately 120,000 g/mol) in order to examine the utility of this approach with various cross-linking strategies. Increasing the fraction of low MW alginates to 0.50 maintained a value of E similar to that for the high MW alginate gels but led to faster degradation, irrespective of the cross-linking mode. This result was attributed to a faster separation between cross-linked domains upon chain breakages for the low MW alginates, coupled with their faster chain scission than the high MW alginates. The more rapidly degrading oxidized binary hydrogels facilitated the formation of new bone tissues from transplanted bone marrow stromal cells, as compared with the nonoxidized high MW hydrogels. The results of these studies will be useful for controlling the physical properties of a broad array of hydrogel-forming polymers.
Supraphysiological concentrations of exogenous growth factors are typically required to obtain bone regeneration, and it is unclear why lower levels are not effective. We hypothesized that delivery of bone progenitor cells along with appropriate combinations of growth factors and scaffold characteristics would allow physiological doses of proteins to be used for therapeutic bone regeneration. We tested this hypothesis by measuring bone formation by rat bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) transplanted ectopically in SCID mice using alginate hydrogels. The alginate was gamma-irradiated to vary the degradation rate and then covalently modified with RGD-containing peptides to control cell behavior. In the same delivery vehicle, we incorporated bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP2) and transforming growth factor-beta3 (TGF-beta3), either individually or in combination. Individual delivery of BMP2 or TGF-beta3 resulted in negligible bone tissue formation up to 22 weeks, regardless of the implant degradation rate. In contrast, when growth factors were delivered together from readily degradable hydrogels, there was significant bone formation by the transplanted BMSCs as early as 6 weeks after implantation. Furthermore, bone formation, which appeared to occur by endochondral ossification, was achieved with the dual growth factor condition at protein concentrations that were more than an order of magnitude less than those reported previously to be necessary for bone formation. These data demonstrate that appropriate combinations of soluble and biomaterial-mediated regulatory signals in cell-based tissue engineering systems can result in both more efficient and more effective tissue regeneration.
Ectopic calcification of vascular tissue is associated with several cardiovascular pathologies and likely involves active regulation by vascular smooth muscle cells and osteoblast-like vascular cells. This process often occurs in sites with altered mechanical environments, suggesting a role for mechanical stimuli in calcification. In this study, we investigated the effect of mechanical stimulation on the proliferation, osteogenic differentiation, calcification, and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling in calcifying vascular cells (CVCs), a subpopulation of aortic smooth muscle cells putatively involved in vascular calcification. Application of equibiaxial cyclic strain (7%, 0.25 Hz) to CVCs had no effect on cell proliferation, but accelerated alkaline phosphatase expression and significantly increased mineralization by 3.1-fold over unstrained cells. Fluid motion in the absence of strain also enhanced mineralization, but to a lesser degree. Because MAPK pathways mediate mechanically regulated osteoblast differentiation, we tested whether similar signaling was involved in mineralization by CVCs. In static cultures, pharmacological inhibition of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2), p38 MAPK, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase pathways significantly attenuated mineral production by as much as -94%, compared with uninhibited CVCs. Strikingly, although mechanical stimulation activated each of the MAPK pathways, inhibition of these pathways had no effect on the mechanically induced enhancement of alkaline phosphatase activity or mineralization. These novel data indicate that mechanical signals regulate calcification by CVCs, and although MAPK signaling is critical to CVC osteogenic differentiation and mineralization, it is not involved directly in transduction of mechanical signals to regulate these processes under the conditions utilized in this study.
PURPOSE: Particle migration, poor shape definition and/or rapid resorption limit the success of current urethral bulking agents. We propose that shape defining porous scaffolds that allow cell infiltration and anchoring, and may be delivered in a minimally invasive manner may provide many advantageous features.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Alginate hydrogels were prepared with varying degrees of covalent cross-linking and different pore characteristics. Dehydrated scaffolds were compressed into smaller, temporary forms, introduced into the dorsal subcutaneous space of CD-1 mice by minimally invasive delivery through a 10 gauge angiocatheter and rehydrated in situ with a saline solution delivered through the same catheter. Ionically cross-linked calcium alginate gel served as a control. Specimens were harvested at 2, 6, 12 and 24 weeks to evaluate implant shape retention and volume, cell infiltration and calcification, and the presence of an inflammatory response.
RESULTS: A total of 90 scaffolds were implanted and 95% were recovered at the site of injection. All of these scaffolds successfully rehydrated and 80% recovered and maintained their original 3-dimensional shape for 6 months. Scaffold volume and tissue infiltration varied depending on the degree of alginate cross-linking. Highly cross-linked materials (20% and 35%) demonstrated the best volume maintenance with the latter facilitating the most tissue infiltration. The inflammatory response was minimal except with the 80% cross-linked material. Calcification was not observed in covalently cross-linked scaffolds. In contrast, 98% of calcium alginate implants were calcified.
CONCLUSIONS: Shape retaining porous hydrogels meet many of the requirements necessary for a successful injectable bulking agent and offer advantages over currently used agents.
BACKGROUND: Minimally invasive surgical procedures are increasingly important in medicine, but biomaterials consistent with this delivery approach that allow one to control the structure of the material after implantation are lacking. Biomaterials with shape-memorizing properties could permit minimally invasive delivery of cell transplantation constructs and enable the formation of new tissues or structures in vivo in desired shapes and sizes.
METHODS: Macroporous alginate hydrogel scaffolds were prepared in a number of predefined geometries, compressed into significantly smaller, different "temporary" forms, and introduced into immunocompromised mice by means of minimally invasive surgical delivery through a small catheter. Scaffolds were rehydrated in situ with a suspension of cells (primary bovine articular chondrocytes) or cell-free medium and delivered through the same catheter. Specimens were harvested at 1 hr to evaluate the efficacy of cell delivery and the recovery of scaffold geometry, and at 8 and 24 weeks to evaluate neotissue formation.
RESULTS: A high percentage (88%) of scaffolds that were introduced with a catheter and rehydrated with cells had recovered their original shape and size within 1 hr. This delivery procedure resulted in cartilage structures with the geometry of the original scaffold by 2 months and histologically mature appearing tissue at 6 months.
CONCLUSIONS: Shaped hydrogels, formed by covalently cross-linking, can be structurally collapsed into smaller, temporary shapes that permit their minimally invasive delivery in vivo. The rapid recovery of scaffold properties facilitates efficient cell seeding in vivo and permits neotissue formation in desired geometries.
The need for replacement tissues or organs requires a tissue supply that cannot be satisfied by the donor supply. The tissue engineering and regeneration field is focused on the development of biological tissue and organ substitutes and may provide functional tissues to restore, maintain, or improve tissue formation. This field is already providing new therapeutic options to bypass the limitations of organ?tissue transplantation and will likely increase in medical importance in the future. This interdisciplinary field accommodates principles of life sciences and engineering and encompasses three major strategies. The first, guided tissue regeneration, relies on synthetic matrices that are conductive to host cells populating a tissue defect site and reforming the lost tissue. The second approach, inductive strategy, involves the delivery of growth factors, typically using drug delivery strategies, which are targeted to specific cell populations in the tissues surrounding the tissue defect. In the third approach, specific cell populations, typically multiplied in culture, are directly delivered to the site at which one desires to create a new tissue or organ. In all of these approaches, the knowledge acquired from developmental studies often serves as a template for the tissue engineering approach for a specific tissue or organ. This article overviews the development of synthetic extracellular matrices (ECMs) for use in tissue engineering that aim to mimic functions of the native ECM of developing and regenerating tissues. In addition to the potential therapeutic uses of these materials, they also provide model systems for basic studies that may shed light on developmental processes.
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether rabbit cartilage can be tissue engineered using a polyglycolic acid (PGA) construct composed of PGA mesh, autologous chondrocytes, and alginate covalently linked with the cell adhesion sequence arginine-glycine-aspartic acid (RGD), and to investigate the feasibility of reconstructing tracheal defects using the PGA construct in conjunction with a bioabsorbable intratracheal stent.
METHODS: Nineteen New Zealand White rabbits were used. Nine rabbits underwent subcutaneous implantation of 3 different PGA construct combinations: (1) PGA, autologous chondrocytes, and RGD-modified alginate; (2) PGA, autologous chondrocytes, and unmodified alginate; and (3) PGA and RGD-modified alginate. The remaining 10 animals underwent anterior tracheal reconstruction using fascia lata grafts and the complete PGA construct (PGA, autologous chondrocytes, and RGD-modified alginate). At the time of tracheal reconstruction, a poly-l-lactic acid intratracheal stent was placed in 5 of these latter animals. Rates of tracheal stenosis and mortality were compared with those of historical control animals. Histologic analysis was performed on the PGA constructs.
RESULTS: In the subcutaneous implants, the PGA constructs made with chondrocytes (with and without RGD) demonstrated mature cartilage formation in 7 (78%) of the 9 animals. No cartilage was seen in PGA constructs made without chondrocytes. Two of the 10 animals that underwent tracheal reconstruction with the complete PGA construct survived to 20 weeks and demonstrated patent airways, 1 with a stent and 1 without a stent (80% overall mortality). Histologic analysis showed mature cartilage formation at the tracheal reconstruction site. Historical control animals that underwent reconstruction with fascia lata alone demonstrated the lowest overall mortality.
CONCLUSIONS: Cartilage can be tissue engineered in rabbits using PGA mesh embedded with alginate-encapsulated autologous chondrocytes. It is also possible to reconstruct tracheal defects with this method of cartilage engineering, although the mortality rate in this study is high.
Macroporous polymeric scaffolds are frequently used in tissue engineering to allow for cell seeding and host cell invasion of the scaffold following implantation. The process of gas foaming/particulate leaching (GF/PL) is one method to form porous three dimensional scaffolds from particulate poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLG). The current study was designed to test the hypothesis that the size of the polymer particles used in this process will control the properties of the scaffolds. Scaffolds were prepared from PLG particles of various sizes (less than 75 microm, 75-106 microm, 106-250 microm and 250-425 microm) and subsequently analyzed. Scaffolds formed from large particles (250-425 microm) displayed significantly decreased compressive moduli, as compared to scaffolds fabricated from smaller particles. In addition, these scaffolds have a pore structure that is less interconnected and contains closed pores. Analysis of tissue in-growth, utilizing a novel computer-aided method, demonstrated that scaffolds formed from smaller particle sizes (less than 106 microm) have significantly more tissue penetration than those formed from larger particle sizes (greater than 106 microm). These results indicate that using small PLG particles (less than 106 microm) leads to high elastic moduli, provides a more interconnected pore structure and promotes greater tissue penetration into the scaffolds in vivo.
Cyclic mechanical strain has been demonstrated to enhance the development and function of engineered smooth muscle (SM) tissues, and it would be necessary for the development of the elastic scaffolds if one wishes to engineer SM tissues under cyclic mechanical loading. This study reports on the development of an elastic scaffold fabricated from a biodegradable polymer. Biodegradable poly(glycolide-co-caprolactone) (PGCL) copolymer was synthesized from glycolide and epsilon-caprolactone in the presence of stannous octoate as catalyst. The copolymer was characterized by (1)H-NMR, gel permeation chromatography and differential scanning calorimetry. Scaffolds for tissue engineering applications were fabricated from PGCL copolymer using the solvent-casting and particle-leaching technique. The PGCL scaffolds produced in this fashion had open pore structures (average pore size = 250 microm) without the usual nonporous skin layer on external surfaces. Mechanical testing revealed that PGCL scaffolds were far more elastic than poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) scaffolds fabricated using the same method. Tensile mechanical tests indicated that PGCL scaffolds could withstand an extension of 250% without cracking, which was much higher than withstood by PLGA scaffolds (10-15%). In addition, PGCL scaffolds achieved recoveries exceeding 96% at applied extensions of up to 230%, whereas PLGA scaffolds failed (cracked) at an applied strain of 20%. Dynamic mechanical tests showed that the permanent deformation of the PGCL scaffolds in a dry condition produced was less than 4% of the applied strain, when an elongation of 20% at a frequency of 1 Hz (1 cycle per second) was applied for 6 days. Moreover, PGCL scaffolds in a buffer solution also had permanent deformations less than 5% of the applied strain when an elongation of 10% at a frequency of 1 Hz was applied for 2 days. The usefulness of the PGCL scaffolds was demonstrated by engineering SM tissues in vivo. This study shows that the elastic PGCL scaffolds produced in this study could be used to engineer SM-containing tissues (e.g. blood vessels and bladders) in mechanically dynamic environments.
Therapeutic angiogenesis is a promising approach to treat patients with cardiovascular disease, and will likely be critical to engineering large tissues. Many growth factors have been found to play significant roles in angiogenesis, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) are the most extensively investigated angiogenic factors to date. However, the appropriate dose to obtain a desired response and the effectiveness of each factor, relative to the other, in promoting angiogenesis at a specific site in the body remains unclear. We have used alginate hydrogels as localized delivery vehicles for VEGF and bFGF, and compared the ability of these factors to promote new blood vessel formation in the subcutaneous tissue of severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. We have found that the thickness of a granulation tissue layer formed around the gel and the number of blood vessels in the layer increased with the dose of VEGF in the gel, but the density of new blood vessels remained relatively constant. Sustained and localized delivery of bFGF from the gels, while similarly leading to an increase in the density of blood vessels in the granulation tissue, did not lead to as high of a blood vessel density as VEGF. The results of this study support previous studies demonstrating the utility of both VEGF and bFGF in promoting angiogenesis, and suggest VEGF is more appropriate for creating a dense bed of new blood vessels in this model.
Physical stimuli play critical roles in the development, regeneration, and pathology of many mesenchymal tissues, most notably bone. While mature bone cells, such as osteoblasts and osteocytes, are clearly involved in these processes, the role of their progenitors in mechanically mediated tissue responses is unknown. In this study, we investigated the effect of cyclic substrate deformation on the proliferation and osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). Application of equibiaxial cyclic strain (3%, 0.25Hz) to hMSCs cultured in osteogenic media inhibited proliferation and stimulated a 2.3-fold increase in matrix mineralization over unstrained cells. The strain stimulus activated the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways, but had no effect on c-Jun N-terminal kinase phosphorylation or activity. Strain-induced mineralization was largely mediated by ERK1/2 signaling, as inhibition of ERK1/2 attenuated calcium deposition by 55%. Inhibition of the p38 pathway resulted in a more mature osteogenic phenotype, suggesting an inhibitory role for p38 signaling in the modulation of strain-induced osteogenic differentiation. These results demonstrate that mechanical signals regulate hMSC function, suggesting a critical role for physical stimulation of this specific cell population in mesenchymal tissue formation.
Ectopic calcification is commonly associated with cardiovascular disease, injury, aging, and biomaterial implantation. We hypothesized that the normal mechanical environment of smooth muscle cells (SMCs) inhibits a phenotypic switch to a pattern of gene expression more typical for bone and inducive for calcification. This hypothesis was tested using a 3-D engineered smooth muscle tissue model subjected to cyclic mechanical strain. This simplified model maintained a 3-D tissue architecture while eliminating systemic effects as can be seen with in vivo models. All engineered tissues were found to express bone-associated genes (osteopontin, matrix gla protein, alkaline phosphatase, and the transcription factor CBFA-1). Strikingly, however, expression of these genes was down-regulated in tissues exposed to cyclic strain at all time points ranging from 5 to 150 days. Furthermore, long-term strain played a protective role in regard to calcification, as unstrained tissues exhibited increased calcium deposition with respect to strained tissues. The results of this study suggest that without an appropriate mechanical environment, SMCs in 3-D culture undergo a phenotypic conversion to an osteoblast-like pattern of gene expression. This finding has significant implications for the mechanisms underlying a variety of cardiovascular diseases and indicates the broad utility of engineered tissue models in basic biology studies.
Hydrogel-forming materials have been widely utilized as an immobilization matrix and transport vehicle for cells. Success in these applications is dependent upon maintaining cell viability through the gel preparation process. We hypothesized that the high viscosity of pre-gelled solutions typically used in these applications may decrease cell viability due to the high shear forces required to mix cells with these solutions. Further, we proposed this harmful effect could be mediated by decreasing the molecular weight (Mw) of the polymer used to form the gel, while maintaining its gel-forming ability. To investigate this hypothesis, alginate was used as model system, as this copolymer consists of cross-linkable guluronic acid (G) blocks and non-cross-linkable blocks. Decreasing the Mw of alginate using irradiation (e.g., irradiating at dose of 2 Mrad) decreased the low shear viscosity of 2% (w/w) pre-gelled solutions from 1000 to 4 cP, while maintaining high elastic moduli, once cross-linked to form a gel. Importantly, the immobilization of cells with these polymer hydrogels increased cell viability from 40% to 70%, as compared to using high Mw polymer chains to form the gels. Furthermore, the solids concentration of gels formed with the low Mw alginate could be raised to further increase the moduli of gels without significantly deteriorating the viability of immobilized cells. This was likely due to the limited increase in the viscosity of these solutions. This material design approach may be useful with a variety of synthetic or naturally occurring block copolymers used to immobilize cells.
Transmission of externally applied mechanical forces to the interior of a cell requires coordination of biochemical signaling pathways with changes in cytoskeletal assembly and organization. In this study, we addressed one potential mechanism for this signal integration by applying uniform single external mechanical strains to aortic smooth muscle cells (SMCs) via their adhesion substrate. A tensile strain applied to the substrate for 15 min significantly increased microtubule (MT) assembly by 32 +/- 7%, with no apparent effect on the cells' focal adhesions as revealed by immunofluorescence and quantitative analysis of Triton X-100-insoluble vinculin levels. A compressive strain decreased MT mass by 24 +/- 9% but did not influence the level of vinculin in focal adhesions. To understand the decoupling of these two cell responses to mechanical strain, we examined a redistribution of the small GTPases RhoA and Rac. Tensile strain was found to decrease the amount of membrane-associated RhoA and Rac by 70 +/- 9% and 45 +/- 11%, respectively, compared with static controls. In contrast, compressive strain increased membrane-associated RhoA and Rac levels by 74 +/- 17% and 36 +/- 13%, respectively. Disruption of the MT network by prolonged treatments with low doses of either nocodazole or paclitaxel before the application of strain abolished the redistribution of RhoA and Rac in response to the applied forces. Combined, these results indicate that the effects of externally applied mechanical strain on the distribution and activation of the Rho family GTPases require changes in the state of MT polymerization.
One of the fundamental principles that underlies tissue-engineering strategies using cell transplantation is that a newly formed tissue must acquire and maintain sufficient vascularization in order to support its growth. Enhancing angiogenesis through delivery of growth factors is one approach to establishing a vascular network to these tissues. In this study, we tested the potential of bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) to modulate the growth and differentiation activities of blood vessel precursors, endothelial cells (ECs), by their secretion of soluble angiogenic factors. The growth and differentiation of cultured ECs were enhanced in response to exposure to BMSC conditioned medium (CM). Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays demonstrated that both mouse and human BMSCs secreted significant quantities of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) (2.4-3.1 ng/10(6) cells per day). Furthermore, eliminating the activity of BMSC-secreted VEGF with blocking antibodies completely blocked the CM effects on cultured ECs. These data demonstrate that human BMSCs secrete sufficient quantities of VEGF to enhance survival and differentiation of endothelial cells in vitro, and suggest they may be capable of directly orchestrating angiogenesis in vivo.
The reduction of adipose depots is widely considered to be the optimal approach to limit pathologies associated with obesity. While many current antiobesity strategies are centered on regulating satiety, these approaches typically attempt an overall weight loss and are unable to target distinct adipose depots specifically associated with disease risk. The authors report a novel therapeutic modality utilizing localized and sustained delivery of drugs to provide for the selective ablation of adipose tissue. Using the epididymal fat pad of Sprague-Dawley rats as a model, they injected into the tissue poly(lactide-co-glycolide) microspheres encapsulating tumor necrosis factor-alpha, a well-known regulator of adipose tissue mass. The utility of this approach was investigated in vivo by measuring the fat pad mass relative to the contralateral control within the same animal (n = 4 at each time point) and in vitro by measuring apoptosis in adipose organ cultures. The authors demonstrated control over the localization of tumor necrosis factor-alpha by performing blood analysis. This is the first report of localized drug delivery for adipose tissue ablation, and these results indicate the potential utility of the general tissue ablation approach for treatment of numerous pathologies.
Alginate hydrogels are widely used for cell encapsulation and transplantation, and they are frequently surface reinforced with secondary polymers to enhance their mechanical rigidity and stability. We hypothesized that the molecular weight (MW) of the polymer utilized to reinforce alginate would be an important factor in their stability, particularly when the gel network was homogeneously reinforced with the polymer. This hypothesis was investigated with alginate hydrogels cross-linked with Ca2+, and reinforced throughout the bulk of the gel with poly(ethyleneimine) (PEI) having different MWs. Interactions between the two polymers became significant following gelation, leading to higher elastic moduli (E) than gels with no PEI. The decrease in E of gels incubated in isotonic salt solutions over time, utilized as an indication of gel break down, was ameliorated with an increase in the MW of the PEI. In addition, the dependencies of the moduli and viscoelasticity on the temperature also became smaller with the use of high MW PEI. This is likely due to the limited mobility of high MW PEI, leading to a higher energy for dissociation. The stable interactions between the alginate and PEI prevented alterations of the pore structure in the gels, and slowed the deterioration of gel properties even under continuous agitation in a bioreactor. The results of this study will likely be useful in designing alginate encapsulation strategies for various applications.
Polyethylenimine (PEI) was combined with plasmid DNA and freeze dried following the addition of sucrose as a lyoprotectant and pore-forming agent. Freeze-dried PEI DNA condensates were dry mixed with granular polylactideglycolic acid (PLGA) then compression molded and sponged to encapsulated PEI DNA. A measurement of the elastic modulus indicated that 91 wt% sucrose substituted for 95 wt% sodium chloride as a porogen, resulting in PLGA sponges with a mechanical modulus of 100 kPa. The PEI DNA was retained (80%) within PLGA sponges prepared with sucrose during the leaching and subsequent 2-week release studies, whereas sodium chloride PLGA sponges caused the premature release (100%) of PEI DNA within 2 days. In vitro gene transfer studies with PEI DNA PLGA sponges established that adherent and infiltrating fibroblasts expressed reporter gene for 15 days compared with the short, 3-day expression mediated by direct gene of PEI DNA on cells in culture. The results demonstrate an approach to encapsulate condensed DNA in a PLGA sponge for the purpose of retaining DNA within the matrices and creating efficient gene transfer during tissue engineering.
Polymer scaffolds have many different functions in the field of tissue engineering. They are applied as space filling agents, as delivery vehicles for bioactive molecules, and as three-dimensional structures that organize cells and present stimuli to direct the formation of a desired tissue. Much of the success of scaffolds in these roles hinges on finding an appropriate material to address the critical physical, mass transport, and biological design variables inherent to each application. Hydrogels are an appealing scaffold material because they are structurally similar to the extracellular matrix of many tissues, can often be processed under relatively mild conditions, and may be delivered in a minimally invasive manner. Consequently, hydrogels have been utilized as scaffold materials for drug and growth factor delivery, engineering tissue replacements, and a variety of other applications.