Biomaterial strategies for regenerating multitissue structures require unique approaches. One strategy is to design scaffolds so that their local biophysical properties can enhance site-specific effects of an otherwise heterogeneous biomolecular environment. This investigation examined the role of biomaterial physical properties (relative density, mineral content) on the human mesenchymal stem cell phenotype in the presence of mixed soluble signals to drive osteogenesis or chondrogenesis. We tested a series of three-dimensional collagen-glycosaminoglycan scaffolds with properties inspired by extracellular matrix characteristics across the osteotendinous interface (tendon, cartilage, and bone). We found that selective scaffold mineralization induced a depressed chondrogenic response compared with nonmineralized groups as demonstrated by gene expression and histological analyses. Interestingly, the greatest chondrogenic response was found in a higher density, nonmineralized scaffold variant despite increased contraction and cellular condensation in lower density nonmineralized scaffolds. In fact, the lower density scaffolds demonstrated a significantly higher expression of osteogenic transcripts as well as ample mineralization after 21 days of culture. This effect may be due to local stiffening of the scaffold microenvironment as the scaffold contracts, leading to increased cell density, accelerated differentiation, and possible endochondral ossification as evidenced by a transition from a glycosaminoglycan (GAG)-rich milieu to higher mineralization at later culture times. These findings will help shape the design rules for graded biomaterials to regenerate distinct fibrillar, fibrocartilagenous, and mineralized regions of orthopedic interfaces.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering