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1.  Comparison of Cellular Architecture, Axonal Growth, and Blood Vessel Formation Through Cell-Loaded Polymer Scaffolds in the Transected Rat Spinal Cord 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2014;20(21-22):2985-2997.
The use of multichannel polymer scaffolds in a complete spinal cord transection injury serves as a deconstructed model that allows for control of individual variables and direct observation of their effects on regeneration. In this study, scaffolds fabricated from positively charged oligo[poly(ethylene glycol)fumarate] (OPF+) hydrogel were implanted into rat spinal cords following T9 complete transection. OPF+ scaffold channels were loaded with either syngeneic Schwann cells or mesenchymal stem cells derived from enhanced green fluorescent protein transgenic rats (eGFP-MSCs). Control scaffolds contained extracellular matrix only. The capacity of each scaffold type to influence the architecture of regenerated tissue after 4 weeks was examined by detailed immunohistochemistry and stereology. Astrocytosis was observed in a circumferential peripheral channel compartment. A structurally separate channel core contained scattered astrocytes, eGFP-MSCs, blood vessels, and regenerating axons. Cells double-staining with glial fibrillary acid protein (GFAP) and S-100 antibodies populated each scaffold type, demonstrating migration of an immature cell phenotype into the scaffold from the animal. eGFP-MSCs were distributed in close association with blood vessels. Axon regeneration was augmented by Schwann cell implantation, while eGFP-MSCs did not support axon growth. Methods of unbiased stereology provided physiologic estimates of blood vessel volume, length and surface area, mean vessel diameter, and cross-sectional area in each scaffold type. Schwann cell scaffolds had high numbers of small, densely packed vessels within the channels. eGFP-MSC scaffolds contained fewer, larger vessels. There was a positive linear correlation between axon counts and vessel length density, surface density, and volume fraction. Increased axon number also correlated with decreasing vessel diameter, implicating the importance of blood flow rate. Radial diffusion distances in vessels significantly correlated to axon number as a hyperbolic function, showing a need to engineer high numbers of small vessels in parallel to improving axonal densities. In conclusion, Schwann cells and eGFP-MSCs influenced the regenerating microenvironment with lasting effect on axonal and blood vessel growth. OPF+ scaffolds in a complete transection model allowed for a detailed comparative, histologic analysis of the cellular architecture in response to each cell type and provided insight into physiologic characteristics that may support axon regeneration.
doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2013.0551
PMCID: PMC4229864  PMID: 24854680
2.  Sustained Delivery of Dibutyryl Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate to the Transected Spinal Cord Via Oligo [(Polyethylene Glycol) Fumarate] Hydrogels 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2011;17(9-10):1287-1302.
This study describes the use of oligo [(polyethylene glycol) fumarate] (OPF) hydrogel scaffolds as vehicles for sustained delivery of dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate (dbcAMP) to the transected spinal cord. dbcAMP was encapsulated in poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) microspheres, which were embedded within the scaffolds architecture. Functionality of the released dbcAMP was assessed using neurite outgrowth assays in PC12 cells and by delivery to the transected spinal cord within OPF seven channel scaffolds, which had been loaded with Schwann cells or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Our results showed that encapsulation of dbcAMP in microspheres lead to prolonged release and continued functionality in vitro. These microspheres were then successfully incorporated into OPF scaffolds and implanted in the transected thoracic spinal cord. Sustained delivery of dbcAMP inhibited axonal regeneration in the presence of Schwann cells but rescued MSC-induced inhibition of axonal regeneration. dbcAMP was also shown to reduce capillary formation in the presence of MSCs, which was coupled with significant functional improvements. Our findings demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating PLGA microsphere technology for spinal cord transection studies. It represents a novel sustained delivery mechanism within the transected spinal cord and provides a platform for potential delivery of other therapeutic agents.
doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2010.0396
PMCID: PMC3079174  PMID: 21198413
3.  Positively Charged Oligo[Poly(Ethylene Glycol) Fumarate] Scaffold Implantation Results in a Permissive Lesion Environment after Spinal Cord Injury in Rat 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2015;21(13-14):2099-2114.
Positively charged oligo[poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate] (OPF+) scaffolds loaded with Schwann cells bridge spinal cord injury (SCI) lesions and support axonal regeneration in rat. The regeneration achieved is not sufficient for inducing functional recovery. Attempts to increase regeneration would benefit from understanding the effects of the scaffold and transplanted cells on lesion environment. We conducted morphometric and stereological analysis of lesions in rats implanted with OPF+ scaffolds with or without loaded Schwann cells 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8 weeks after thoracic spinal cord transection. No differences were found in collagen scarring, cyst formation, astrocyte reactivity, myelin debris, or chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) accumulation. However, when scaffold-implanted animals were compared with animals with transection injuries only, these barriers to regeneration were significantly reduced, accompanied by increased activated macrophages/microglia. This distinctive and regeneration permissive tissue reaction to scaffold implantation was independent of Schwann cell transplantation. Although the tissue reaction was beneficial in the short term, we observed a chronic fibrotic host response, resulting in scaffolds surrounded by collagen at 8 weeks. This study demonstrates that an appropriate biomaterial scaffold improves the environment for regeneration. Future targeting of the host fibrotic response may allow increased axonal regeneration and functional recovery.
doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2015.0019
PMCID: PMC4507127  PMID: 25891264
4.  Repair of Osteochondral Defects with Biodegradable Hydrogel Composites Encapsulating Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells in a Rabbit Model 
Acta biomaterialia  2009;6(1):39-47.
This work investigated the delivery of marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), with or without the growth factor transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1), from biodegradable hydrogel composites on the repair of osteochondral defects in a rabbit model. Three formulations of oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) hydrogel composites containing gelatin microparticles (GMPs) and MSCs were implanted in osteochondral defects, including (1) OPF/GMP hydrogel composites; (2) OPF/GMP hydrogel composites encapsulating MSCs; and (3) OPF hydrogel composites containing TGF-β1 loaded GMPs and MSCs. At 12 weeks, the quality of new tissue formed in chondral and subchondral regions of defects was evaluated based on subjective and quantitative histological analysis. OPF hydrogel composites were partially degraded and the defects were filled with newly formed tissue at 12 weeks with no sign of persistent inflammation. With the implantation of scaffolds alone, newly formed chondral tissue had an appearance of hyaline cartilage with zonal organization and intense staining for glycosaminoglycans, while in the subchondral region hypertrophic cartilage with some extent of bone formation was often observed. The addition of MSCs, especially with TGF-β1 loaded GMPs, facilitated subchondral bone formation, as evidenced by more trabecular bone appearance. However, the delivery of MSCs with or without TGF-β1 at the dosage investigated did not improve cartilage morphology. While OPF-based hydrogel composites supported osteochondral tissue generation, further investigations are necessary to elucidate the effects of MSC seeding density and differentiation stage on new tissue formation and regeneration.
doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2009.07.041
PMCID: PMC2787824  PMID: 19660580
cartilage tissue engineering; mesenchymal stem cells; hydrogel composites; osteochondral defects
5.  Injectable biodegradable hydrogels for embryonic stem cell transplantation: improved cardiac remodelling and function of myocardial infarction 
Abstract
In this study, an injectable, biodegradable hydrogel composite of oligo[poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate] (OPF) was investigated as a carrier of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) for the treatment of myocardial infarction (MI). The OPF hydrogels were used to encapsulate mESCs. The cell differentiation in vitro over 14 days was determined via immunohistochemical examination. Then, mESCs encapsulated in OPF hydrogels were injected into the LV wall of a rat MI model. Detailed histological analysis and echocardiography were used to determine the structural and functional consequences after 4 weeks of transplantation. With ascorbic acid induction, mESCs could differentiate into cardiomyocytes and other cell types in all three lineages in the OPF hydrogel. After transplantation, both the 24-hr cell retention and 4-week graft size were significantly greater in the OPF + ESC group than that of the PBS + ESC group (P < 0.01). Four weeks after transplantation, OPF hydrogel alone significantly reduced the infarct size and collagen deposition and improved the cardiac function. The heart function and revascularization improved significantly, while the infarct size and fibrotic area decreased significantly in the OPF + ESC group compared with that of the PBS + ESC, OPF and PBS groups (P < 0.01). All treatments had significantly reduced MMP2 and MMP9 protein levels compared to the PBS control group, and the OPF + ESC group decreased most by Western blotting. Transplanted mESCs expressed cardiovascular markers. This study suggests the potential of a method for heart regeneration involving OPF hydrogels for stem cell encapsulation and transplantation.
doi:10.1111/j.1582-4934.2011.01409.x
PMCID: PMC3227757  PMID: 21838774
cardiac tissue engineering; injectable hydrogels; cell encapsulation; embryonic stem cell; myocardial infarction
6.  Injectable Biodegradable Hydrogels for Embryonic Stem Cell Transplantation: Improved Cardiac Remodeling and Function of Myocardial Infarction 
In this study, an injectable, biodegradable hydrogel composite of oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) was investigated as a carrier of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) for the treatment of myocardial infarction (MI). 10K OPF hydrogels were used to encapsulate mESCs. The cell differentiation in vitro over 14 days was determined via immunohistochemical examination. Then, mESCs encapsulated in OPF hydrogels were injected into the left ventricular wall of a rat myocardial infarction model. Detailed histological analysis and echocardiography were used to determine the structural and functional consequences after 4 weeks of transplantation. With ascorbic acid induction, mESCs could differentiate into cardiomyocytes and other cell types in all three lineages in the OPF hydrogel. After transplantation, both the 24h-cell retention and 4-week graft size were significantly greater in the OPF + ESC group than that of the PBS + ESC group (p<0.01). Four weeks after transplantation, OPF hydrogel alone significantly reduced the infarct size and collagen deposition and improved the cardiac function. The heart function and revascularization improved significantly, while the infarct size and fibrotic area decreased significantly in the OPF + ESC group compared with that of the PBS +ESC group, OPF group and PBS group (p<0.01). All treatments had significantly reduced MMP2 and MMP9 protein levels compared to the PBS control group, and the OPF + ESC group decreased most by Western blotting. Transplanted mESCs expressed cardiovascular markers. This study suggest the potential of a method for heart regeneration involving oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) hydrogels for stem cell encapsulation and transplantation.
doi:10.1111/j.1582-4934.2011.01409.x
PMCID: PMC3227757  PMID: 21838774
cardiac tissue engineering; injectable hydrogels; cell encapsulation; embryonic stem cell; myocardial infarction
7.  Oligo[poly(ethylene glycol)fumarate] Hydrogel Enhances Osteochondral Repair in Porcine Femoral Condyle Defects 
Background
Management of osteochondritis dissecans remains a challenge. Use of oligo[poly(ethylene glycol)fumarate] (OPF) hydrogel scaffold alone has been reported in osteochondral defect repair in small animal models. However, preclinical evaluation of usage of this scaffold alone as a treatment strategy is limited.
Questions/purposes
We therefore (1) determined in vitro pore size and mechanical stiffness of freeze-dried and rehydrated freeze-dried OPF hydrogels, respectively; (2) assessed in vivo gross defect filling percentage and histologic findings in defects implanted with rehydrated freeze-dried hydrogels for 2 and 4 months in a porcine model; (3) analyzed highly magnified histologic sections for different types of cartilage repair tissues, subchondral bone, and scaffold; and (4) assessed neotissue filling percentage, cartilage phenotype, and Wakitani scores.
Methods
We measured pore size of freeze-dried OPF hydrogel scaffolds and mechanical stiffness of fresh and rehydrated forms. Twenty-four osteochondral defects from 12 eight-month-old micropigs were equally divided into scaffold and control (no scaffold) groups. Gross and histologic examination, one-way ANOVA, and one-way Mann-Whitney U test were performed at 2 and 4 months postoperatively.
Results
Pore sizes ranged from 20 to 433 μm in diameter. Rehydrated freeze-dried scaffolds had mechanical stiffness of 1 MPa. The scaffold itself increased percentage of neotissue filling at both 2 and 4 months to 58% and 54%, respectively, with hyaline cartilage making up 39% of neotissue at 4 months.
Conclusions
Rehydrated freeze-dried OPF hydrogel can enhance formation of hyaline-fibrocartilaginous mixed repair tissue of osteochondral defects in a porcine model.
Clinical Relevance
Rehydrated freeze-dried OPF hydrogel alone implanted into cartilage defects is insufficient to generate a homogeneously hyaline cartilage repair tissue, but its spacer effect can be enhanced by other tissue-regenerating mediators.
doi:10.1007/s11999-012-2487-0
PMCID: PMC3586016  PMID: 22826014
8.  Photo-Crosslinked Poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate) Networks for Peripheral Nerve Regeneration: Physical Properties and Preliminary Biological Evaluations 
Acta biomaterialia  2009;5(5):1531-1542.
In an effort of achieving suitable biomaterials for peripheral nerve regeneration, we present a material design strategy of combining a crystallite-based physical network and a crosslink-based chemical network. Biodegradable polymer disks and conduits have been fabricated by photo-crosslinking three poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate)s (PCLF530, PCLF1250, and PCLF2000), which were synthesized from the precursor poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) diols with nominal molecular weights of 530, 1250, and 2000 g.mol−1, respectively. Thermal properties such as glass transition temperature (Tg), melting temperature (Tm), and crystallinity of photo-crosslinked PCLFs were examined and correlated with their rheological and mechanical properties. Furthermore, in vitro degradation of uncrosslinked and crosslinked PCLFs in PBS crosslinked PCLFs in 1 N NaOH aqueous solution at 37 °C was studied. In vitro cytocompatibility, attachment, and proliferation of Schwann cell precursor line SPL201 cells on three PCLF networks were investigated. Crosslinked PCLF2000 with the highest crystallinity and mechanical properties was found to best support cell attachment and proliferation. Using a new photo-crosslinking method, single-lumen crosslinked PCLF nerve conduits without defects were fabricated in a glass mold. Crosslinked PCLF2000 nerve conduits were selected for evaluation in a 1-cm gap rat sciatic nerve model. Histological evaluation demonstrated that the material was biocompatible with sufficient strength to hold sutures in place after 6 and 17 weeks of implantation. Nerve cable with myelinated axons was found in the crosslinked PCLF2000 nerve conduit.
doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2008.12.015
PMCID: PMC2869216  PMID: 19171506
Poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate); Photo-crosslinking; Peripheral nerve regeneration; Cell responses
9.  Development of Electrically Conductive Oligo(polyethylene Glycol) Fumarate-Polypyrrole Hydrogels for Nerve Regeneration 
Biomacromolecules  2010;11(11):2845-2853.
Electrically conductive hydrogel composites consisting of oligo(polyethylene glycol) fumarate (OPF) and polypyrrole (PPy) were developed for applications in nerve regeneration. OPF-PPy scaffolds were synthesized using three different anions: naphthalene-2-sulfonic acid sodium salt (NSA), dodecylbenzenesulfonic acid sodium salt (DBSA), and dioctyl sulfosuccinate sodium salt (DOSS). Scaffolds were characterized by ATR-FTIR, XPS, AFM, dynamic mechanical analysis, electrical resistivity measurements, and swelling experiments. OPF-PPy scaffolds were shown to consist of up to 25 mol% polypyrrole with a compressive modulus ranging from 265 to 323 kPa and a sheet resistance ranging from 6 to 30 × 103 Ohms/square. In vitro studies using PC12 cells showed OPF-PPy materials had no cytotoxicity and PC12 cells showed distinctly better cell attachment and an increase in the percent of neurite bearing cells on OPF-PPy materials compared to OPF. The neurite lengths of PC12 cells were significantly higher on OPF-PPyNSA and OPF-PPyDBSA. These results show that electrically conductive OPF-PPy hydrogels are promising candidates for future applications in nerve regeneration.
doi:10.1021/bm100526a
PMCID: PMC3947846  PMID: 20942380
hydrogel; electrical; conductive; nerve; tissue regeneration
10.  Dual growth factor delivery from bilayered, biodegradable hydrogel composites for spatially-guided osteochondral tissue repair 
Biomaterials  2014;35(31):8829-8839.
The present work investigated the use of biodegradable hydrogel composite scaffolds, based on the macromer oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF), to deliver growth factors for the repair of osteochondral tissue in a rabbit model. In particular, bilayered OPF composites were used to mimic the structural layers of the osteochondral unit, and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) were loaded into gelatin microparticles and embedded within the OPF hydrogel matrix in a spatially controlled manner. Three different scaffold formations were implanted in a medial femoral condyle osteochondral defect: 1) IGF-1 in the chondral layer, 2) BMP-2 in the subchondral layer, and 3) IGF-1 and BMP-2 in their respective separate layers. The quantity and quality of osteochondral repair was evaluated at 6 and 12 weeks with histological scoring and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). While histological scoring results at 6 weeks showed no differences between experimental groups, micro-CT analysis revealed that the delivery of BMP-2 alone increased the number of bony trabecular islets formed, an indication of early bone formation, over that of IGF-1 delivery alone. At 12 weeks post-implantation, minimal differences were detected between the three groups for cartilage repair. However, the dual delivery of IGF-1 and BMP-2 had a higher proportion of subchondral bone repair, greater bone growth at the defect margins, and lower bone specific surface than the single delivery of IGF-1. These results suggest that the delivery of BMP-2 enhances subchondral bone formation and that, while the dual delivery of IGF-1 and BMP-2 in separate layers does not improve cartilage repair under the conditions studied, they may synergistically enhance the degree of subchondral bone formation. Overall, bilayered OPF hydrogel composites demonstrate potential as spatially-guided, multiple growth factor release vehicles for osteochondral tissue repair.
doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2014.07.006
PMCID: PMC4140660  PMID: 25047629
Insulin-like growth factor-1; bone morphogenetic protein-2; subchondral bone; cartilage repair; rabbit model
11.  Osteochondral Tissue Regeneration using a Bilayered Composite Hydrogel with Modulating Dual Growth Factor Release Kinetics in a Rabbit Model 
Biodegradable oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) composite hydrogels have been investigated for the delivery of growth factors (GFs) with the aid of gelatin microparticles (GMPs) and stem cell populations for osteochondral tissue regeneration. In this study, a bilayered OPF composite hydrogel that mimics the distinctive hierarchical structure of native osteochondral tissue was utilized to investigate the effect of transforming growth factor-β3 (TGF-β3) with varying release kinetics and/or insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) on osteochondral tissue regeneration in a rabbit full-thickness osteochondral defect model. The four groups investigated included (i) a blank control (no GFs), (ii) GMP-loaded IGF-1 alone, (iii) GMP-loaded IGF-1 and gel-loaded TGF-β3, and (iv) GMP-loaded IGF-1 and GMP-loaded TGF-β3 in OPF composite hydrogels. The results of an in vitro release study demonstrated that TGF-β3 release kinetics could be modulated by the GF incorporation method. At 12 weeks post-implantation, the quality of tissue repair in both chondral and subchondral layers was analyzed based on quantitative histological scoring. All groups incorporating GFs resulted in a significant improvement in cartilage morphology compared to the control. Single delivery of IGF-1 showed higher scores in subchondral bone morphology as well as chondrocyte and glycosaminoglycan amount in adjacent cartilage tissue when compared to a dual delivery of IGF-1 and TGF-β3, independent of the TGF-β3 release kinetics. The results suggest that although the dual delivery of TGF-β3 and IGF-1 may not synergistically enhance the quality of engineered tissue, the delivery of IGF-1 alone from bilayered composite hydrogels positively affects osteochondral tissue repair and holds promise for osteochondral tissue engineering applications.
doi:10.1016/j.jconrel.2013.03.013
PMCID: PMC3661728  PMID: 23541928
Hydrogel; osteochondral defect; transforming growth factor-β3; insulin-like growth factor-1
12.  Axon Regeneration through Scaffold into Distal Spinal Cord after Transection 
Journal of neurotrauma  2009;26(10):1759-1771.
We employed Fast Blue (FB) axonal tracing to determine the origin of regenerating axons after thoracic spinal cord transection injury in rats. Schwann cell (SC)-loaded, biodegradable, poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) scaffolds were implanted after transection. Scaffolds loaded with solubilized basement membrane preparation (without SCs) were used for negative controls, and nontransected cords were positive controls. One or 2 months after injury and scaffold implantation, FB was injected 0–15 mm caudal or about 5 mm rostral to the scaffold. One week later, tissue was harvested and the scaffold and cord sectioned longitudinally (30 μm) on a cryostat. Trans-scaffold labeling of neuron cell bodies was identified with confocal microscopy in all cell-transplanted groups. Large (30–50 μm diameter) neuron cell bodies were predominantly labeled in the ventral horn region. Most labeled neurons were seen 1–10 mm rostral to the scaffold, although some neurons were also labeled in the cervical cord. Axonal growth occurred bidirectionally after cord transection, and axons regenerated up to 14 mm beyond the PLGA scaffolds and into distal cord. The extent of FB labeling was negatively correlated with distance from the injection site to the scaffold. Electron microscopy showed myelinated axons in the transverse sections of the implanted scaffold 2 months after implantation. The pattern of myelination, with extracellular collagen and basal lamina, was characteristic of SC myelination. Our results show that FB labeling is an effective way to measure the origin of regenerating axons.
doi:10.1089/neu.2008-0610
PMCID: PMC2763055  PMID: 19413501
axonal tracing; biodegradable polymers; Fast Blue; Schwann cells; spinal cord injury
13.  Axon Regeneration through Scaffold into Distal Spinal Cord after Transection 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2009;26(10):1759-1771.
Abstract
We employed Fast Blue (FB) axonal tracing to determine the origin of regenerating axons after thoracic spinal cord transection injury in rats. Schwann cell (SC)-loaded, biodegradable, poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) scaffolds were implanted after transection. Scaffolds loaded with solubilized basement membrane preparation (without SCs) were used for negative controls, and nontransected cords were positive controls. One or 2 months after injury and scaffold implantation, FB was injected 0–15 mm caudal or about 5 mm rostral to the scaffold. One week later, tissue was harvested and the scaffold and cord sectioned longitudinally (30 μm) on a cryostat. Trans-scaffold labeling of neuron cell bodies was identified with confocal microscopy in all cell-transplanted groups. Large (30–50 μm diameter) neuron cell bodies were predominantly labeled in the ventral horn region. Most labeled neurons were seen 1–10 mm rostral to the scaffold, although some neurons were also labeled in the cervical cord. Axonal growth occurred bidirectionally after cord transection, and axons regenerated up to 14 mm beyond the PLGA scaffolds and into distal cord. The extent of FB labeling was negatively correlated with distance from the injection site to the scaffold. Electron microscopy showed myelinated axons in the transverse sections of the implanted scaffold 2 months after implantation. The pattern of myelination, with extracellular collagen and basal lamina, was characteristic of SC myelination. Our results show that FB labeling is an effective way to measure the origin of regenerating axons.
doi:10.1089/neu.2008.0610
PMCID: PMC2763055  PMID: 19413501
axonal tracing; biodegradable polymers; Fast Blue; Schwann cells; spinal cord injury
14.  Synthesis of oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) 
Nature protocols  2012;7(6):1219-1227.
This protocol describes the synthesis of oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) (1–35 kDa)(a polymer useful for tissue engineering applications) by a one-pot reaction of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and fumaryl chloride. The procedure involves three parts: dichloromethane and PEG are first dried; the reaction step follows in which fumaryl chloride and triethylamine are added dropwise to a solution of PEG in dichloromethane; and finally the product solution is filtered to remove byproduct salt, and the OPF product is twice crystallized, washed, and dried under vacuum. The reaction is affected by PEG molecular weight and reactant molar ratio. The OPF product is cross-linked by radical polymerization by either a thermally induced or UV-induced radical initiator, and the physical properties of the OPF oligomer and resulting cross-linked hydrogel are easily tailored by varying PEG molecular weight. OPF hydrogels are injectable, polymerize in situ, and undergo biodegradation by hydrolysis of ester bonds. The expected time required to complete this protocol is 6 d.
doi:10.1038/nprot.2012.055
PMCID: PMC3513913  PMID: 22653160
oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate); OPF; polymer; tissue engineering; polymer synthesis; radical polymerization; hydrogel; PEG
15.  Effect of Swelling Ratio of Injectable Hydrogel Composites on Chondrogenic Differentiation of Encapsulated Rabbit Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells In Vitro 
Biomacromolecules  2009;10(3):541-546.
An injectable, biodegradable hydrogel composite of oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) and gelatin microparticles (MPs) has been investigated as a cell and growth factor carrier for cartilage tissue engineering applications. In this study, hydrogel composites with different swelling ratios were prepared by crosslinking OPF macromers with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) repeating units of varying molecular weights from 1,000 ~ 35,000. Rabbit marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and MPs loaded with transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) were encapsulated in the hydrogel composites in order to examine the effect of the swelling ratio of the hydrogel composites on the chondrogenic differentiation of encapsulated rabbit marrow MSCs both in the presence and absence of TGF-β1. The swelling ratio of the hydrogel composites increased as the PEG molecular weight in the OPF macromers increased. Chondrocyte-specific genes were expressed at higher levels in groups containing TGF-β1-loaded MPs and varied with the swelling ratio of the hydrogel composites. OPF hydrogel composites with PEG repeating units of molecular weight 35,000 and 10,000 with TGF-β1-loaded MPs exhibited a 159 ± 95 and a 89 ± 31 fold increase in type II collagen gene expression at day 28, respectively, while OPF hydrogel composites with PEG repeating units of molecular weight 3,000 and 1,000 with TGF-β1-loaded MPs showed a 27 ± 10 and a 17 ± 7 fold increase in type II collagen gene expression, respectively, as compared to the composites with blank MPs at day 0. The results indicate that chondrogenic differentiation of encapsulated rabbit marrow MSCs within OPF hydrogel composites could be affected by their swelling ratio, thus suggesting the potential of OPF composite hydrogels as part of a novel strategy for controlling the differentiation of stem cells.
doi:10.1021/bm801197m
PMCID: PMC2765566  PMID: 19173557
injectable hydrogels; crosslinking; marrow mesenchymal stem cells; gelatin microparticles; TGF-β1; chondrogenic differentiation; cartilage tissue engineering
16.  Neural Stem Cell– and Schwann Cell–Loaded Biodegradable Polymer Scaffolds Support Axonal Regeneration in the Transected Spinal Cord 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2009;15(7):1797-1805.
Biodegradable polymer scaffolds provide an excellent approach to quantifying critical factors necessary for restoration of function after a transection spinal cord injury. Neural stem cells (NSCs) and Schwann cells (SCs) support axonal regeneration. This study examines the compatibility of NSCs and SCs with the poly-lactic-co-glycolic acid polymer scaffold and quantitatively assesses their potential to promote regeneration after a spinal cord transection injury in rats. NSCs were cultured as neurospheres and characterized by immunostaining for nestin (NSCs), glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) (astrocytes), βIII-tubulin (immature neurons), oligodendrocyte-4 (immature oligodendrocytes), and myelin oligodendrocyte (mature oligodendrocytes), while SCs were characterized by immunostaining for S-100. Rats with transection injuries received scaffold implants containing NSCs (n = 17), SCs (n = 17), and no cells (control) (n = 8). The degree of axonal regeneration was determined by counting neurofilament-stained axons through the scaffold channels 1 month after transplantation. Serial sectioning through the scaffold channels in NSC- and SC-treated groups revealed the presence of nestin, neurofilament, S-100, and βIII tubulin–positive cells. GFAP-positive cells were only seen at the spinal cord–scaffold border. There were significantly more axons in the NSC- and SC- treated groups compared to the control group. In conclusion, biodegradable scaffolds with aligned columns seeded with NSCs or SCs facilitate regeneration across the transected spinal cord. Further, these multichannel biodegradable polymer scaffolds effectively serve as platforms for quantitative analysis of axonal regeneration.
doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2008.0364
PMCID: PMC2792101  PMID: 19191513
17.  Synthetic biodegradable hydrogel delivery of demineralized bone matrix for bone augmentation in a rat model 
Acta biomaterialia  2014;10(11):4574-4582.
There exists a strong clinical need for a more capable and robust method to achieve bone augmentation, and a system with fine-tuned delivery of demineralized bone matrix (DBM) has potential to meet that need. As such, the objective of the present study was to investigate a synthetic biodegradable hydrogel for the delivery of DBM for bone augmentation in a rat model. Oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) constructs were designed and fabricated by varying the content of rat-derived DBM particles (either 1:3, 1:1, or 3:1 DBM:OPF weight ratio on a dry basis) and using two DBM particle size ranges (50–150 or 150–250 μm). The physical properties of the constructs and the bioactivity of the DBM were evaluated. Select formulations (1:1 and 3:1 with 50–150 μm DBM) were evaluated in vivo compared to an empty control to investigate the effect of DBM dose and construct properties on bone augmentation. Overall, 3:1 constructs with higher DBM content achieved the greatest volume of bone augmentation exceeding 1:1 constructs and empty implants by 3-fold and 5-fold, respectively. As such, we have established that a synthetic, biodegradable hydrogel can function as a carrier for DBM, and that the volume of bone augmentation achieved by the constructs correlated directly to DBM dose.
doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2014.07.011
PMCID: PMC4186894  PMID: 25046637
oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate); demineralized bone matrix; bone augmentation
18.  Implantation of cauda equina nerve roots through a biodegradable scaffold at the conus medullaris in rat 
Background context
Traumatic injuries occurring at the conus medullaris of the spinal cord cause both permanent damage to the central nervous system, and to the cauda equina nerve roots.
Purpose
This proof of concept study determined whether implanting the nerve roots into a biodegradable scaffold would improve regeneration after injury.
Study design/setting
All experimental work involving rats was performed according to approved guidelines by the Mayo Clinic Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). Surgical procedures were performed on 32 Sprague Dawley rats. Four ventral cauda equina nerve roots were re-implanted either directly into the ventral cord stump or through a poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) scaffold. These experimental groups were compared to a control group in which the nerves were inserted into a muscle fascia barrier that was placed between the spinal cord and nerve roots. Animals were sacrificed at four weeks.
Methods
This work was funded by the authors' institution; Morton Cure Paralysis Fund; The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation; and NIBIB grant R01 EB 02390. There was no conflict of interest between the study funding and the conclusions drawn.
Results
There was no difference in motor neuron counts in the spinal cord rostral to the injury in all treatment groups, implying equal potential for regeneration into implanted nerve roots. One-way ANOVA testing, with Tukey's post-test, showed a statistically significant improvement in axon regeneration through the injury in the PLGA scaffold treatment group compared to the control (p<0.05, scaffold n=11, control n=11).
Conclusion
This pilot study demonstrated that a PLGA scaffold improved regeneration of axons into peripheral nerve roots. However, the number of regenerating axons observed was limited and did not lead to functional recovery. Future experiments will employ a different scaffold material and possible growth factors or enzymes to increase axon populations.
doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2014.01.059
PMCID: PMC4125550  PMID: 24509005
19.  A Factorial Analysis of the Combined Effects of Hydrogel Fabrication Parameters on the in vitro Swelling and Degradation of Oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) Hydrogels 
In this study, a full factorial approach was employed to investigate the effects of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) molecular weight (10,000 vs. 35,000 nominal molecular weight), crosslinker-to-macromer carbon-carbon double bond ratio (40 vs. 60), crosslinker type (PEG-diacrylate (PEGDA) vs. N,N′–methylene bisacrylamide (MB)), crosslinking extent of incorporated gelatin microparticles (low vs. high), and incubation medium composition (with or without collagenase) on the swelling and degradation characteristics of oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) hydrogel composites as indicated by the swelling ratio and the % mass remaining, respectively. Each factor consisted of two levels, which were selected based on previous in vitro and in vivo studies utilizing these hydrogels for various tissue engineering applications. Fractional factorial analyses of the main effects indicated that the mean swelling ratio and the mean % mass remaining of OPF composite hydrogels were significantly affected by every factor. In particular, increasing the PEG chain MW of OPF macromers significantly increased the mean swelling ratio and decreased the mean % mass remaining by 5.7±0.3 and 17.2±0.6 %, respectively. However, changing the crosslinker from MB to PEGDA reduced the mean swelling ratio and increased the mean % mass remaining of OPF composite hydrogels by 4.9±0.2 and 9.4±0.9 %, respectively. Additionally, it was found that the swelling characteristics of hydrogels fabricated with higher PEG chain MW or with MB were more sensitive to increases in DBR. Collectively, the main and cross effects observed between factors enables informed tuning of the swelling and degradation properties of OPF-based hydrogels for various tissue engineering applications.
doi:10.1002/jbm.a.35015
PMCID: PMC4012001  PMID: 24243766
hydrogels; swelling and degradation; factorial study; poly(ethylene glycol)-based materials; fabrication parameters
20.  Three-Dimensional Porous Biodegradable Polymeric Scaffolds Fabricated with Biodegradable Hydrogel Porogens 
We have developed a new fabrication technique to create three-dimensional (3D) porous poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate) (PCLF) scaffolds using hydrogel microparticle porogens, as an alternative to overcome certain limitations of traditional scaffold fabrication techniques such as a salt leaching method. Both natural hydrogel, gelatin, and synthetic hydrogel, poly(ethylene glycol) sebacic acid diacrylate, were used as porogens to fabricate 3D porous PCLF scaffolds. Hydrogel microparticles were prepared by a single emulsion technique with the particle size in the range of 100–500 μm after equilibrium in water. The pore size distribution, porosity, pore interconnectivity, and spatial pore heterogeneity of the 3D PCLF scaffolds were assessed using micro-computed tomography and imaging analysis. Scaffolds fabricated with the hydrogel porogens had higher porosity and pore interconnectivity as well as more homogeneous spatial pore distribution, compared to the scaffolds made from the salt leaching process. Compressive moduli of the scaffolds were also measured and showed that lower porosity yielded greater modulus of the scaffolds. Overall, the new fabrication technology using hydrogel porogens may be beneficial for certain tissue engineering applications.
doi:10.1089/ten.tec.2008.0642
PMCID: PMC2819712  PMID: 19216632
21.  The Roles of Matrix Polymer Crystallinity and Hydroxyapatite Nanoparticles in Modulating Material Properties of Photo-crosslinked Composites and Bone Marrow Stromal Cell Responses 
Biomaterials  2009;30(20):3359-3370.
Two poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate)s (PCLFs) with distinct physical properties have been employed to prepare nanocomposites with hydroxyapatite (HA) nanoparticles via photo-crosslinking. The two PCLFs are PCLF530 and PCLF2000, named after their precursor PCL diol molecular weight of 530 and 2000 g.mol-1, respectively. Crosslinked PCLF530 is amorphous while crosslinked PCLF2000 is semi-crystalline with a melting temperature (Tm) of ∼40 °C and a crystallinity of 40%. Consequently, the rheological and mechanical properties of crosslinked PCLF2000 are significantly greater than those of crosslinked PCLF530. Structural characterizations and physical properties of both series of crosslinked PCLF/HA nanocomposites with HA compositions of 0%, 5%, 10%, 20%, and 30% have been investigated. By adding HA nanoparticles, crosslinked PCLF530/HA nanocomposites demonstrate enhanced rheological and mechanical properties while the enhancement in compressive modulus is less prominent in crosslinked PCLF2000/HA nanocomposites. In vitro cell attachment and proliferation have been performed using rat bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) and correlated with the material properties. Cell attachment and proliferation on crosslinked PCLF530/HA nanocomposite disks have been enhanced strongly with increasing the HA composition. However, surface morphology and surface chemistry such as composition, hydrophilicity, and the capability of adsorbing protein cannot be used to interpret the cell responses on different samples. Instead, the role of surface stiffness in regulating cell responses can be supported by the correlation between the change in compressive modulus and BMSC proliferation on these two series of crosslinked PCLFs and PCLF/HA nanocomposites.
doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.03.015
PMCID: PMC2868517  PMID: 19339048
Polycaprolactone fumarate (PCLF); Hydroxyapatite (HA); Nanocomposite; Photo-crosslinking; Bone marrow stromal cell responses
22.  Osteoblast Growth and Bone Healing Response to Three Dimensional Poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate) Scaffolds 
Poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate) (PCLF) scaffold formulations were assessed as a delivery system of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein (rhBMP-2) for bone tissue engineering. The formulations included PCLF with combinations of poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) and hydroxyapatite (HA). The assessments included in vitro and in vivo assays. In vitro assays validated cell attachment using a pre-osteoblast cell line (MC3T3-E1). Additionally, in vitro release profiles of rhBMP-2 from PCLF scaffolds were determined up to 21 days. Data suggested PCLF incorporated with PVA and HA accelerated rhBMP-2 release and the released protein was bioactive. For the in vivo study, a critical sized defect (CSD) model in a rabbit calvaria was used to test PCLF scaffolds. At 6 weeks post-implantation, significantly more bone formation was measured in PCLF scaffolds containing rhBMP-2 than in scaffolds without rhBMP-2. In conclusion, we demonstrated PCLF delivered biologically active rhBMP-2, promoted bone healing in a CSD and has potential as a bone tissue engineering scaffold.
doi:10.1002/term.442
PMCID: PMC3213277  PMID: 21744511
poly(ε-caprolactone fumarate); three-dimensional scaffold; rabbit calvarial critical sized defect; rhBMP-2; bone tissue engineering
23.  Osteochondral Tissue Regeneration Through Polymeric Delivery of DNA Encoding for the SOX Trio and RUNX2 
Acta biomaterialia  2014;10(10):4103-4112.
Native osteochondral repair is often inadequate due to the inherent properties of the tissue and current clinical repair strategies can result in healing with a limited lifespan and donor site morbidity. This work investigates the use of polymeric gene therapy to address this problem by delivering DNA encoding for transcription factors complexed with the branched poly(ethylenimine)-hyaluronic acid (bPEI-HA) delivery vector via a porous oligo[poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate] (OPF) hydrogel scaffold. To evaluate the potential of this approach, a bilayered scaffold mimicking native osteochondral tissue organization was loaded with DNA/bPEI-HA complexes. Next, bilayered implants either unloaded or loaded in a spatial fashion with bPEI-HA and DNA encoding for either Runt-related transcription factor 2 (RUNX2) or SRY (sex determining region Y)-box 5, 6, and 9 (the SOX trio), to generate bone and cartilage tissues respectively, were fabricated and implanted in a rat osteochondral defect. At 6 weeks post-implantation, micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) analysis and histological scoring were performed on the explants to evaluate the quality and quantity of tissue repair in each group. The incorporation of DNA encoding for RUNX2 in the bone layer of these scaffolds significantly increased bone growth. Additionally, a spatially loaded combination of RUNX2 and SOX trio DNA loading significantly improved healing relative to empty hydrogels or either factor alone. Finally, the results of this study suggest that subchondral bone formation is necessary for correct cartilage healing.
doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2014.05.011
PMCID: PMC4160371  PMID: 24854956
Polymeric gene delivery; OPF; bPEI-HA; SOX trio; RUNX-2
24.  A Stimuli-Responsive Hydrogel for Doxorubicin Delivery 
Biomaterials  2010;31(31):8051-8062.
The goal of this study was to develop a polymeric carrier for delivery of anti-tumor drugs and sustained release of these agents in order to optimize anti-tumor activity while minimizing systemic effects. We used oligo(poly(ethylene glycol) fumarate) (OPF) hydrogels modified with small negatively charged molecules, sodium methacrylate (SMA), for delivery of doxorubicin (DOX). SMA at different concentrations was incorporated into the OPF hydrogel with a photo-crosslinking method. The resulting hydrogels exhibited sensitivity to the pH and ionic strength of the surrounding environment. Our results revealed that DOX was bound to the negatively charged hydrogel through electrostatic interaction and was released in a timely fashion with an ion exchange mechanism. Release kinetics of DOX was directly correlated to the concentration of SMA in the hydrogel formulations. Anti-tumor activity of the released DOX was assessed using a human osteosarcoma cell line. Our data revealed that DOX released from the modified, charged hydrogels remained biologically active and had the capability to kill cancer cells. In contrast, control groups of unmodified OPF hydrogels with or without DOX did not exhibit any cytotoxicity. This study demonstrates the feasibility of using SMA-modified OPF hydrogels as a potential carrier for chemotherapeutic drugs for cancer treatments.
doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.06.054
PMCID: PMC2936247  PMID: 20696470
25.  Relationship between Scaffold Channel Diameter and Number of Regenerating Axons in the Transected Rat Spinal Cord 
Acta biomaterialia  2009;5(7):2551-2559.
Regeneration of endogenous axons through a Schwann cell (SC)-seeded scaffold implant has been demonstrated in the transected rat spinal cord. The formation of a cellular lining in the scaffold channel may limit the degree of axonal regeneration. Spinal cords of adult rats were transected and implanted with the SC-loaded polylactic co-glycollic acid (PLGA) scaffold implants containing seven parallel-aligned channels, either 450-μm (n=19) or 660-μm in diameter (n=14). Animals were sacrificed after 1, 2, and 3 months. Immunohistochemistry for neurofilament-expression was performed. The cross-sectional area of fibrous tissue and regenerative core was calculated. We found that the 450-μm scaffolds had significantly greater axon fibers per channel at the one month (186 ± 37) and three month (78 ± 11) endpoints than the 660-μm scaffolds (90 ± 19 and 40 ± 6, respectively) (P=0.0164 & 0.0149, respectively). The difference in the area of fibrous rim between the 450-μm and 660-μm channels was most pronounced at the one month endpoint, at 28,046 μm2 ± 6,551 and 58,633 μm2 ± 7,063, respectively (P=0.0105). Our study suggests that fabricating scaffolds with smaller diameter channels promotes greater regeneration over larger diameter channels. Axonal regeneration was reduced in the larger channels due to the generation of a large fibrous rim. Optimization of this scaffold environment establishes a platform for future studies of the effects of cell types, trophic factors or pharmacological agents on the regenerative capacity of the injured spinal cord.
doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2009.03.021
PMCID: PMC2731813  PMID: 19409869
Biomedical Engineering; Tissue Development and Growth; Central Nervous System; Polymeric Scaffolds

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