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Tissue Eng Part A. 2010 Nov;16(11):3457-66. doi: 10.1089/ten.tea.2010.0233. Epub 2010 Jul 28.

Cyclic tensile culture promotes fibroblastic differentiation of marrow stromal cells encapsulated in poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogels.

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Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


To inform future efforts in tendon/ligament tissue engineering, our laboratory has developed a well-controlled model system with the ability to alter both external tensile loading parameters and local biochemical cues to better understand marrow stromal cell differentiation in response to both stimuli concurrently. In particular, the synthetic, poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogel material oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) has been explored as a cell carrier for this system. This biomaterial can be tailored to present covalently incorporated bioactive moieties and can be loaded in our custom cyclic tensile bioreactor for up to 28 days with no loss of material integrity. Human marrow stromal cells encapsulated in these OPF hydrogels were cultured (21 days) under cyclic tensile strain (10%, 1  Hz, 3  h of strain followed by 3  h without) or at 0% strain. No difference was observed in cell number due to mechanical stimulation or across time (n = 4), with cells remaining viable (n = 4) through 21 days. Cyclic strain significantly upregulated all tendon/ligament fibroblastic genes examined (collagen I, collagen III, and tenascin-C) by day 21 (n ≥ 6), whereas genes for other pathways (osteogenic, chondrogenic, and adipogenic) did not increase. After 21 days, the presence of collagen I and tenascin-C was observed via immunostaining (n = 2). This study demonstrates the utility of this hydrogel/bioreactor system as a versatile, yet well-controlled, model environment to study marrow stromal cell differentiation toward the tendon/ligament phenotype under a variety of conditions.

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