Tuning Cell Differentiation into a 3D Scaffold Presenting a Pore Shape Gradient for Osteochondral Regeneration

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Osteochondral regeneration remains nowadays a major problem since the outcome of current techniques is not satisfactory in terms of functional tissue formation and development. A possible solution is the combination of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) with additive manufacturing technologies to fabricate scaffolds with instructive properties. In this study, the differentiation of hMSCs within a scaffold presenting a gradient in pore shape is presented. The variation in pore shape is determined by varying the angle formed by the fibers of two consequent layers. The fiber deposition patterns are 0–90, which generate squared pores, 0–45, 0–30, and 0–15, that generate rhomboidal pores with an increasing major axis as the deposition angle decreases. Within the gradient construct, squared pores support a better chondrogenic differentiation whereas cells residing in the rhomboidal pores display a better osteogenic differentiation. When cultured under osteochondral conditions the trend in both osteogenic and chondrogenic markers is maintained. Engineering the pore shape, thus creating axial gradients in structural properties, seems to be an instructive strategy to fabricate functional 3D scaffolds that are able to influence hMSCs differentiation for osteochondral tissue regeneration.

Additive manufacturing is used to fabricate 3D scaffolds displaying gradients in pore shape. Studies of adult stem cell activity show that by changing pore shapes from cubical to rhomboidal, cells increasingly shift from a more chondrogenic to a more osteogenic differentiated phenotype in the presence of soluble factors. This may contribute to enhance osteochondral regeneration in orthopedic treatments.

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