Minimally invasive surgical procedures are increasingly important in medicine, but biomaterials consistent with this delivery approach that allow one to control the structure of the material after implantation are lacking. Biomaterials with shape-memorizing properties could permit minimally invasive delivery of cell transplantation constructs and enable the formation of new tissues or structures in vivo in desired shapes and sizes.Methods.
Macroporous alginate hydrogel scaffolds were prepared in a number of predefined geometries, compressed into significantly smaller, different “temporary” forms, and introduced into immunocompromised mice by means of minimally invasive surgical delivery through a small catheter. Scaffolds were rehydrated in situ with a suspension of cells (primary bovine articular chondrocytes) or cell-free medium and delivered through the same catheter. Specimens were harvested at 1 hr to evaluate the efficacy of cell delivery and the recovery of scaffold geometry, and at 8 and 24 weeks to evaluate neotissue formation.Results.
A high percentage (88%) of scaffolds that were introduced with a catheter and rehydrated with cells had recovered their original shape and size within 1 hr. This delivery procedure resulted in cartilage structures with the geometry of the original scaffold by 2 months and histologically mature appearing tissue at 6 months.Conclusions.
Shaped hydrogels, formed by covalently cross-linking, can be structurally collapsed into smaller, temporary shapes that permit their minimally invasive delivery in vivo. The rapid recovery of scaffold properties facilitates efficient cell seeding in vivo and permits neotissue formation in desired geometries.