Regulated non-viral gene delivery from coaxial electrospun fiber mesh scaffolds

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In an effort to add to the versatility of three-dimensional scaffolds for tissue engineering applications, recent experimental designs are incorporating biological molecules such as plasmids and proteins within the scaffold structure. Such scaffolds act as reservoirs for the biological molecules of interest while regulating their release over various durations of time. Here, we describe the use of coaxial electrospinning as a means for the fabrication of fiber mesh scaffolds and the encapsulation and subsequent release of a non-viral gene delivery vector over a period of up to 60 days. Various fiber mesh scaffolds containing plasmid DNA (pDNA) within the core and the non-viral gene delivery vector poly(ethylenimine)-hyaluronic acid (PEI-HA) within the sheath of coaxial fibers were fabricated based on a fractional factorial design that investigated the effects of four processing parameters at two levels. Poly(ε-caprolactone) sheath polymer concentration, poly(ethylene glycol) core polymer molecular weight and concentration, and the concentration of pDNA were investigated for their effects on average fiber diameter, release kinetics of PEI-HA, and transfection efficiency. It was determined that increasing the values of each of the investigated parameters caused an increase in the average diameter of the fibers. The release kinetics of PEI-HA from the fibers were affected by the loading concentration of pDNA (with PEI-HA concentration adjusted accordingly to maintain a constant nitrogen to phosphorous (N:P) ratio within the complexes). Two-dimensional cell culture experiments with model fibroblast-like cells demonstrated that complexes of pDNA with PEI-HA released from fiber mesh scaffolds could successfully transfect cells and induce expression of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Peak EGFP expression varied with the investigated processing parameters, and the average transfection observed was a function of poly(ethylene glycol) (core) molecular weight and concentration. Furthermore, fibroblast-like cells seeded directly onto coaxial fiber mesh scaffolds containing PEI-HA and pDNA showed EGFP expression over 60 days, which was significantly greater than the EGFP expression observed with scaffolds containing pDNA alone. Hence, variable transfection activity can be achieved over extended periods of time upon release of pDNA and non-viral gene delivery vectors from electrospun coaxial fiber mesh scaffolds, with release and subsequent transfection controlled by tunable coaxial fiber mesh fabrication parameters.Graphical abstract

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