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Nature Publishing Group (Macmillan Publishers Ltd.)

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Scientific Reports

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Wound instability and poor functional vascularization in bone tissue engineering lead to lack of tissue integration and ultimate failure of engineered grafts. In order to harness the regenerative potential of growth factors and stimulate bone healing, present study aims to design multifunctional cell therapy microcarriers with the capability of sequential delivery of essential growth factors, bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). An on-chip double emulsion method was implemented to generate monodisperse VEGF encapsulated microcarriers. Bio-inspired poly(3,4-dihydroxyphenethylamine) (PDA) was then functionalized to the microcarriers surface for BMP-2 conjugation. The microcarriers were seeded with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) using a dynamic culture technique for cells expansion. Finally, the microcarriers were incorporated into an injectable alginate-RGD hydrogel laden with endothelial cells (ECs) for further analysis. The DNA and calcium content, as well as ALP activity of the construct were analyzed. The confocal fluorescent microscopy was employed to monitor the MSCs and tunneling structure of ECs. Eventually, the capability of developed microcarriers for bone tissue formation was examined in vivo. Microfluidic platform generated monodisperse VEGF-loaded PLGA microcarriers with size-dependent release patterns. Microcarriers generated with the on-chip technique showed more sustained VEGF release profiles compared to the conventional bulk mixing method. The PDA functionalization of microcarriers surface not only provided immobilization of BMP-2 with prolonged bioavailability, but also enhanced the attachment and proliferation of MSCs. Dynamic culturing of microcarriers showcased their great potential to boost MSCs population required for stem cell therapy of bone defects. ALP activity and calcium content analysis of MSCs-laden microcarriers loaded into injectable hydrogels revealed their capability of tunneling formation, vascular cell growth and osteogenic differentiation. The in vivo histology and real-time polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that transplantation of MSC-laden microcarriers supports ectopic bone formation in the rat model. The presented approach to design bioactive microcarriers offer sustained sequential delivery of bone ECM chemical cues and offer an ideal stabilized 3D microenvironment for patient-specific cell therapy applications. The proposed methodology is readily expandable to integrate other cells and cytokines in a tuned spatiotemporal manner for personalized regenerative medicine.


Published version. Scientific Reports, Vol. 10, No. 11764 (July 2020). DOI. © 2020 Nature Publishing Group (Macmillan Publishers Ltd.). Used with permission.

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