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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2015 Jul 29;7(29):15790-802. doi: 10.1021/acsami.5b02662. Epub 2015 Jul 17.

3D Scaffolds with Different Stiffness but the Same Microstructure for Bone Tissue Engineering.

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†Key Laboratory of Biorheological Science and Technology (Chongqing University), Ministry of Education, and ‡'111' Project Laboratory of Biomechanics and Tissue Repair, Bioengineering College, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, P. R. China.


A growing body of evidence has shown that extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness can modulate stem cell adhesion, proliferation, migration, differentiation, and signaling. Stem cells can feel and respond sensitively to the mechanical microenvironment of the ECM. However, most studies have focused on classical two-dimensional (2D) or quasi-three-dimensional environments, which cannot represent the real situation in vivo. Furthermore, most of the current methods used to generate different mechanical properties invariably change the fundamental structural properties of the scaffolds (such as morphology, porosity, pore size, and pore interconnectivity). In this study, we have developed novel three-dimensional (3D) scaffolds with different degrees of stiffness but the same 3D microstructure that was maintained by using decellularized cancellous bone. Mixtures of collagen and hydroxyapatite [HA: Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2] with different proportions were coated on decellularized cancellous bone to vary the stiffness (local stiffness, 13.00 ± 5.55 kPa, 13.87 ± 1.51 kPa, and 37.7 ± 19.6 kPa; bulk stiffness, 6.74 ± 1.16 kPa, 8.82 ± 2.12 kPa, and 23.61 ± 8.06 kPa). Microcomputed tomography (μ-CT) assay proved that there was no statistically significant difference in the architecture of the scaffolds before or after coating. Cell viability, osteogenic differentiation, cell recruitment, and angiogenesis were determined to characterize the scaffolds and evaluate their biological responses in vitro and in vivo. The in vitro results indicate that the scaffolds developed in this study could sustain adhesion and growth of rat mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and promote their osteogenic differentiation. The in vivo results further demonstrated that these scaffolds could help to recruit MSCs from subcutaneous tissue, induce them to differentiate into osteoblasts, and provide the 3D environment for angiogenesis. These findings showed that the method we developed can build scaffolds with tunable mechanical properties almost without variation in 3D microstructure. These preparations not only can provide a cell-free scaffold with optimal matrix stiffness to enhance osteogenic differentiation, cell recruitment, and angiogenesis in bone tissue engineering but also have significant implications for studies on the effects of matrix stiffness on stem cell differentiation in 3D environments.


3D microenvironment; bone tissue engineering; decellularized cancellous bone; matrix stiffness; mesenchymal stem cells; osteogenic differentiation

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