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Curr Stem Cell Res Ther. 2007 May;2(2):129-38.

Nanotopographical control of human osteoprogenitor differentiation.

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  • 1Centre for Cell Engineering, Division of Infection and Immunity, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Joseph Black Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK.


Current load-bearing orthopaedic implants are produced in 'bio-inert' materials such as titanium alloys. When inserted into the reamed bone during hip or knee replacement surgery the implants interact with mesenchymal populations including the bone marrow. Bio-inert materials are shielded from the body by differentiation of the cells along the fibroblastic lineage producing scar tissue and inferior healing. This is exacerbated by implant micromotion, which can lead to capsule formation. Thus, next-generation implant materials will have to elicit influence over osteoprogenitor differentiation and mesenchymal populations in order to recruit osteoblastic cells and produce direct bone apposition onto the implant. A powerful method of delivering cues to cells is via topography. Micro-scale topography has been shown to affect cell adhesion, migration, cytoskeleton, proliferation and differentiation of a large range of cell types (thus far all cell types tested have been shown to be responsive to topographical cues). More recent research with nanotopography has also shown a broad range of cell response, with fibroblastic cells sensing down to 10 nm in height. Initial studies with human mesenchymal populations and osteoprogenitor populations have again shown strong cell responses to nanofeatures with increased levels of osteocalcin and osteopontin production from the cells on certain topographies. This is indicative of increased osteoblastic activity on the nanotextured materials. Looking at preliminary data, it is tempting to speculate that progenitor cells are, in fact, more responsive to topography than more mature cell types and that they are actively seeking cues from their environment. This review will investigate the range of nanotopographies available to researchers and our present understanding of mechanisms of progenitor cell response. Finally, it will make some speculations of the future of nanomaterials and progenitor cells in tissue engineering.

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