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Biomaterials. 2013 Jul;34(21):5007-18. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.03.037. Epub 2013 Apr 6.

The effect of desulfation of chondroitin sulfate on interactions with positively charged growth factors and upregulation of cartilaginous markers in encapsulated MSCs.

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Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.


Sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are known to interact electrostatically with positively charged growth factors to modulate signaling. Therefore, regulating the degree of sulfation of GAGs may be a promising approach to tailor biomaterial carriers for controlled growth factor delivery and release. For this study, chondroitin sulfate (CS) was first desulfated to form chondroitin, and resulting crosslinked CS and chondroitin hydrogels were examined in vitro for release of positively charged model protein (histone) and for their effect on cartilaginous differentiation of encapsulated human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Desulfation significantly increased the release of histone from chondroitin hydrogels (30.6 ± 2.3 μg released over 8 days, compared to natively sulfated CS with 20.2 ± 0.8 μg), suggesting that sulfation alone plays a significant role in modulating protein interactions with GAG hydrogels. MSCs in chondroitin hydrogels significantly upregulated gene expression of collagen II and aggrecan by day 21 in chondrogenic medium (115 ± 100 and 23.1 ± 7.9 fold upregulation of collagen II and aggrecan, respectively), compared to CS hydrogels and PEG-based swelling controls, indicating that desulfation may actually enhance the response of MSCs to soluble chondrogenic cues, such as TGF-β1. Thus, desulfated chondroitin materials present a promising biomaterial tool to further investigate electrostatic GAG/growth factor interactions, especially for repair of cartilaginous tissues.

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