Hydrogels that mimic developmentally relevant matrix and N-cadherin interactions enhance MSC chondrogenesis.
ABSTRACT: Methacrylated hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels provide a backbone polymer with which mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can interact through several cell surface receptors that are expressed by MSCs, including CD44 and CD168. Previous studies showed that this 3D hydrogel environment supports the chondrogenesis of MSCs, and here we demonstrate through functional blockade that these specific cell-material interactions play a role in this process. Beyond matrix interactions, cadherin molecules, a family of transmembrane glycoproteins, play a critical role in tissue development during embryogenesis, and N-cadherin is a key factor in mediating cell-cell interactions during mesenchymal condensation and chondrogenesis. In this study, we functionalized HA hydrogels with N-cadherin mimetic peptides and evaluated their role in regulating chondrogenesis and cartilage matrix deposition by encapsulated MSCs. Our results show that conjugation of cadherin peptides onto HA hydrogels promotes both early chondrogenesis of MSCs and cartilage-specific matrix production with culture, compared with unmodified controls or those with inclusion of a scrambled peptide domain. This enhanced chondrogenesis was abolished via treatment with N-cadherin-specific antibodies, confirming the contribution of these N-cadherin peptides to chondrogenesis. Subcutaneous implantation of MSC-seeded constructs also showed superior neocartilage formation in implants functionalized with N-cadherin mimetic peptides compared with controls. This study demonstrates the inherent biologic activity of HA-based hydrogels, as well as the promise of biofunctionalizing HA hydrogels to emulate the complexity of the natural cell microenvironment during embryogenesis, particularly in stem cell-based cartilage regeneration.
Project description:The transmembrane glycoprotein N-cadherin (NCad) mediates cell-cell interactions found during mesenchymal condensation and chondrogenesis. Here, NCad-derived peptides (i.e., HAV) are incorporated into hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels with encapsulated mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Since the dose and timing of NCad signaling are dynamic, HAV peptide presentation is tuned via alterations in peptide concentration and incorporation of an ADAM10-cleavable domain between the hydrogel and the HAV motif, respectively. HA hydrogels functionalized with HAV result in dose-dependent increases in early chondrogenesis of encapsulated MSCs and resultant cartilage matrix production. For example, type II collagen and glycosaminoglycan production increase ?9- and 2-fold with the highest dose of HAV (i.e., 2 × 10-3 m), respectively, when compared to unmodified hydrogels, while incorporation of an efficient ADAM10-cleavable domain between the HAV peptide and hydrogel abolishes increases in chondrogenesis and matrix production. Treatment with a small-molecule ADAM10 inhibitor restores the functional effect of the HAV peptide, indicating that timing and duration of HAV peptide presentation is crucial for robust chondrogenesis. This study demonstrates a nuanced approach to the biofunctionalization of hydrogels to better emulate the complex cell microenvironment during embryogenesis toward stem-cell-based cartilage production.
Project description:Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an attractive cell type for cartilage repair that can undergo chondrogenesis in a variety of three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds. Hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels provide a biologically relevant interface for cell encapsulation. While previous studies have shown that MSC-laden HA constructs can mature in vitro to match native mechanical properties using cells from animal sources, clinical application will depend on the successful translation of these findings to human cells. Though numerous studies have investigated chondrogenesis of human MSC (hMSC)-laden constructs, their functional outcomes were quite inferior to those using animal sources, and donor-specific responses to 3D HA hydrogels have not been fully investigated. To that end, hMSCs were derived from seven donors, and their ability to undergo chondrogenesis in pellet culture and HA hydrogels was evaluated. Given the initial observation of overt cell aggregation and/or gel contraction for some donors, the impact of variation in cell and HA macromer concentration on functional outcomes during chondrogenesis was evaluated using one young/healthy donor. The findings show marked differences in functional chondrogenesis of hMSCs in 3D HA hydrogels based on donor. Increasing cell density resulted in increased mechanical properties, but also promoted construct contraction. Increasing the macromer density generally stabilized construct dimensions and increased extracellular matrix production, but limited the distribution of formed matrix at the center of the construct and reduced mechanical properties. Collectively, these findings suggest that the use of hMSCs may require tuning of cell density and gel mechanics on a donor-by-donor basis to provide for the most robust tissue formation for clinical application.
Project description:Tissue engineering using adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), a promising approach for cartilage repair, is highly dependent on the nature of the matrix scaffold. Thermoresponsive, photocrosslinkable hydrogels were fabricated by functionalizing pepsin-soluble decellularized tendon and cartilage extracellular matrices (ECM) with methacrylate groups. Methacrylated gelatin hydrogels served as controls. When seeded with human bone marrow MSCs and cultured in chondrogenic medium, methacrylated ECM hydrogels experienced less cell-mediated contraction, as compared against non-methacrylated ECM hydrogels. However, methacrylation slowed or diminished chondrogenic differentiation of seeded MSCs, as determined through analyses of gene expression, biochemical composition and histology. In particular, methacrylated cartilage hydrogels supported minimal due to chondrogenesis over 42 weeks, as hydrogel disintegration beginning at day 14 presumably compromised cell-matrix interactions. As compared against methacrylated gelatin hydrogels, MSCs cultured in non-methacrylated ECM hydrogels exhibited comparable expression of chondrogenic genes (Sox9, Aggrecan and collagen type II) but increased collagen type I expression. Non-methacrylated cartilage hydrogels did not promote chondrogenesis to a greater extent than either non-methacrylated or methacrylated tendon hydrogels. Whereas methacrylated gelatin hydrogels supported relatively homogeneous increases in proteoglycan and collagen type II deposition throughout the construct over 42 days, ECM hydrogels possessed greater heterogeneity of staining intensity and construct morphology. These results do not support the utility of pepsin-solubilized cartilage and tendon hydrogels for cartilage tissue engineering over methacrylated gelatin hydrogels. Methacrylation of tendon and cartilage ECM hydrogels permits thermal- and light-induced polymerization but compromises chondrogenic differentiation of seeded MSCs.
Project description:Tissue engineering strategies for repairing and regenerating articular cartilage face critical challenges to recapitulate the dynamic and complex biochemical microenvironment of native tissues. One approach to mimic the biochemical complexity of articular cartilage is through the use of recombinant bacterial collagens as they provide a well-defined biological 'blank template' that can be modified to incorporate bioactive and biodegradable peptide sequences within a precisely defined three-dimensional system. We customized the backbone of a Streptococcal collagen-like 2 (Scl2) protein with heparin-binding, integrin-binding, and hyaluronic acid-binding peptide sequences previously shown to modulate chondrogenesis and then cross-linked the recombinant Scl2 protein with a combination of matrix metalloproteinase 7 (MMP7)- and aggrecanase (ADAMTS4)-cleavable peptides at varying ratios to form biodegradable hydrogels with degradation characteristics matching the temporal expression pattern of these enzymes in human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) during chondrogenesis. hMSCs encapsulated within the hydrogels cross-linked with both degradable peptides exhibited enhanced chondrogenic characteristics as demonstrated by gene expression and extracellular matrix deposition compared to the hydrogels cross-linked with a single peptide. Additionally, these combined peptide hydrogels displayed increased MMP7 and ADAMTS4 activities and yet increased compression moduli after 6 weeks, suggesting a positive correlation between the degradation of the hydrogels and the accumulation of matrix by hMSCs undergoing chondrogenesis. Our results suggest that including dual degradation motifs designed to respond to enzymatic activity of hMSCs going through chondrogenic differentiation led to improvements in chondrogenesis. Our hydrogel system demonstrates a bimodal enzymatically degradable biological platform that can mimic native cellular processes in a temporal manner. As such, this novel collagen-mimetic protein, cross-linked via multiple enzymatically degradable peptides, provides a highly adaptable and well defined platform to recapitulate a high degree of biological complexity, which could be applicable to numerous tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.
Project description:While the gold standard for inducing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) chondrogenesis utilizes pellet culture, most tissue engineering strategies for cartilage regeneration encapsulate MSCs as single cells, partially due to the technical challenge to homogeneously encapsulate cell pellets in three-dimensional (3D) hydrogels. It remains unclear whether encapsulating MSCs as single cell suspension or cell aggregates in 3D hydrogels would enhance MSC-based cartilage formation. In this study, we determined that the optimal size of MSC micropellets (?Pellets) that can be homogeneously encapsulated in hydrogels with high cell viability is 100 cells/pellet. Using optimized ?Pellet size, MSCs were encapsulated either as single cell suspension or ?Pellets in four soft hydrogel formulations with stiffness ranging 3-6?kPa. Regardless of hydrogel formulations, single cell encapsulation resulted in more neocartilage deposition with improved mechanical functions over ?Pellet encapsulation. For single cell encapsulation, polyethylene glycol (PEG) hydrogels containing chondroitin sulfate led to the most cartilage matrix deposition, with compressive modulus reaching 211?kPa after only 21 days, a range approaching the stiffness of native cartilage. The findings from this study offer valuable insights on guiding optimal method design for MSCs and hydrogel-based cartilage regeneration. The optimized ?Pellet encapsulation method may be broadly applicable to encapsulate other stem cell types or cancer cells as aggregates in hydrogels. Impact Statement While the gold standard for inducing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) chondrogenesis utilizes pellet culture, it remains unclear whether encapsulating MSCs as cell pellets in three-dimensional hydrogels would enhance MSC-based cartilage formation. In this study, we determined the optimal size of MSC micropellet (?Pellet) that can be homogeneously encapsulated in hydrogels with high cell viability. Unexpectedly, single cell encapsulation resulted in more robust new cartilage formation than ?Pellet encapsulation. Furthermore, tuning hydrogel formulation led to rapid cartilage regeneration with stiffness approaching that of native cartilage. The findings from this study would facilitate clinical translation of MSCs and hydrogel-based therapies for cartilage regeneration with optimized parameters.
Project description:Regenerative medicine strategies for restoring articular cartilage face significant challenges to recreate the complex and dynamic biochemical and biomechanical functions of native tissues. As an approach to recapitulate the complexity of the extracellular matrix, collagen-mimetic proteins offer a modular template to incorporate bioactive and biodegradable moieties into a single construct. We modified a Streptococcal collagen-like 2 protein with hyaluronic acid (HA) or chondroitin sulfate (CS)-binding peptides and then cross-linked with a matrix metalloproteinase 7 (MMP7)-sensitive peptide to form biodegradable hydrogels. Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) encapsulated in these hydrogels exhibited improved viability and significantly enhanced chondrogenic differentiation compared to controls that were not functionalized with glycosaminoglycan-binding peptides. Hydrogels functionalized with CS-binding peptides also led to significantly higher MMP7 gene expression and activity while the HA-binding peptides significantly increased chondrogenic differentiation of the hMSCs. Our results highlight the potential of this novel biomaterial to modulate cell-mediated processes and create functional tissue engineered constructs for regenerative medicine applications.
Project description:Hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels formed via photocrosslinking provide stable 3D hydrogel environments that support the chondrogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Crosslinking density has a significant impact on the physical properties of hydrogels, including their mechanical stiffness and macromolecular diffusivity. Variations in the HA hydrogel crosslinking density can be obtained by either changes in the HA macromer concentration (1, 3, or 5% w/v at 15 min exposure) or the extent of reaction through light exposure time (5% w/v at 5, 10, or 15 min). In this work, increased crosslinking by either method resulted in an overall decrease in cartilage matrix content and more restricted matrix distribution. Increased crosslinking also promoted hypertrophic differentiation of the chondrogenically induced MSCs, resulting in more matrix calcification in vitro. For example, type X collagen expression in the high crosslinking density 5% 15 min group was ~156 and 285% higher when compared to the low crosslinking density 1% 15 min and 5% 5 min groups on day 42, respectively. Supplementation with inhibitors of the small GTPase pathway involved in cytoskeletal tension or myosin II had no effect on hypertrophic differentiation and matrix calcification, indicating that the differential response is unlikely to be related to force-sensing mechanotransduction mechanisms. When implanted subcutaneously in nude mice, higher crosslinking density again resulted in reduced cartilage matrix content, restricted matrix distribution, and increased matrix calcification. This study demonstrates that hydrogel properties mediated through alterations in crosslinking density must be considered in the context of the hypertrophic differentiation of chondrogenically induced MSCs.
Project description:Segmental polyurethanes exhibit biphasic morphology and can control cell fate by providing distinct matrix guided signals to increase the chondrogenic potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Polyethylene glycol (PEG) based hydrophilic polyurethanes can deliver differential signals to MSCs through their matrix phases where hard segments are cell-interactive domains and PEG based soft segments are minimally interactive with cells. These coordinated communications can modulate cell-matrix interactions to control cell shape and size for chondrogenesis. Biphasic character and hydrophilicity of polyurethanes with gel like architecture provide a synthetic matrix conducive for chondrogenesis of MSCs, as evidenced by deposition of cartilage-associated extracellular matrix. Compared to monophasic hydrogels, presence of cell interactive domains in hydrophilic polyurethanes gels can balance cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. These results demonstrate the correlation between lineage commitment and the changes in cell shape, cell-matrix interaction, and cell-cell adhesion during chondrogenic differentiation which is regulated by polyurethane phase morphology, and thus, represent hydrophilic polyurethanes as promising synthetic matrices for cartilage regeneration.
Project description:The limited ability of articular cartilage to self-repair has motivated the development of tissue engineering strategies that aim to harness the regenerative potential of mesenchymal stem/marrow stromal cells (MSCs). Understanding how environmental factors regulate the phenotype of MSCs will be central to unlocking their regenerative potential. The biophysical environment is known to regulate the phenotype of stem cells, with factors such as substrate stiffness and externally applied mechanical loads known to regulate chondrogenesis of MSCs. In particular, hydrostatic pressure (HP) has been shown to play a key role in the development and maintenance of articular cartilage. Using a collagen-alginate interpenetrating network (IPN) hydrogel as a model system to tune matrix stiffness, this study sought to investigate how HP and substrate stiffness interact to regulate chondrogenesis of MSCs. If applied during early chondrogenesis in soft IPN hydrogels, HP was found to downregulate the expression of <i>ACAN, COL2, CDH2</i> and <i>COLX</i>, but to increase the expression of the osteogenic factors <i>RUNX2</i> and <i>COL1</i>. This correlated with a reduction in SMAD 2/3, HDAC4 nuclear localization and the expression of NCAD. It was also associated with a reduction in cell volume, an increase in the average distance between MSCs in the hydrogels and a decrease in their tendency to form aggregates. In contrast, the delayed application of HP to MSCs grown in soft hydrogels was associated with increased cellular volume and aggregation and the maintenance of a chondrogenic phenotype. Together these findings demonstrate how tailoring the stiffness and the timing of HP exposure can be leveraged to regulate chondrogenesis of MSCs and opens alternative avenues for developmentally inspired strategies for cartilage tissue regeneration.
Project description:Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) hold great promise for cartilage repair given their relative abundance, ease of isolation, and chondrogenic potential. To enhance MSC chondrogenesis, extracellular matrix components can be incorporated into three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds as an artificial cell niche. Chondroitin sulfate (CS)-containing hydrogels have been shown to support 3D chondrogenesis, but the effects of varying CS concentration and hydrogel stiffness on 3D MSC chondrogenesis remains elusive. Heparan sulfate (HS) is commonly used as a growth factor reservoir due to its ability to sequester growth factors; however, how it compares to CS in supporting 3D MSC chondrogenesis remains unknown.We fabricated photocrosslinkable hydrogels containing physiologically relevant concentrations (0-10%) of CS or HS with two stiffnesses (~7.5 kPa and?~?36 kPa) as a 3D niche for MSC chondrogenesis.CS is a more potent factor in enhancing MSC chondrogenesis, especially in soft hydrogels (~?7.5 kPa). A moderate dosage of CS (5%) led to the highest amount of neocartilage deposition. Stiff hydrogels (~?36 kPa) generally inhibited neocartilage formation regardless of the biochemical cues.Taken together, the results from this study demonstrated that CS-containing hydrogels at low mechanical stiffness can provide a promising scaffold for enhancing MSC-based cartilage tissue regeneration.