Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are capable of self-renewal and differentiation along the osteogenic, chondrogenic, and adipogenic lineages and have potential applications in a range of therapies. MSCs can be cultured as monolayers on tissue culture plastic, but there are indications that they lose cell-specific properties with time in vitro and so poorly reflect in vivo MSC behavior. We developed dynamic three-dimensional (3D) techniques for in vitro MSC culture using spinner flasks and a rotating wall vessel bioreactor. We characterized the two methods for dynamic 3D MSC culture and compared the properties of these cultures with monolayer MSCs. Our results showed that under optimal conditions, MSCs form compact cellular spheroids and remain viable in dynamic 3D culture. We demonstrated altered cell size and surface antigen expression together with enhanced osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation potential in MSCs from dynamic 3D conditions. By microarray analysis of monolayer and spinner flask MSCs, we identified many differences in gene expression, including those confirming widespread changes to the cellular architecture and extracellular matrix. The upregulation of interleukin 24 in dynamic 3D cultures was shown to selectively impair the viability of prostate cancer cells cultured in medium conditioned by dynamic 3D MSCs. Overall, this work suggests a novel therapeutic application for dynamic 3D MSCs and demonstrates that these methods are a viable alternative to monolayer techniques and may prove beneficial for retaining MSC properties in vitro.
Cues from the extracellular environment, including physical stimuli, are well known to affect mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) properties in terms of proliferation and differentiation. Many therapeutic strategies are now targeting this knowledge to increase the efficacy of cell therapies, typically employed to repair tissue functions in the event of injury, either by direct engraftment into the target tissue or differentiation into mature tissues. However, it is now envisioned that harnessing the repertoire of factors secreted by MSCs (termed the secretome) may provide an alternate to these cell therapies. Of current interest are both direct protein secretions and two major subpopulations of bioactive extracellular vesicles (EVs), namely exosomes and microvesicles. EVs released by MSCs are reflective of their cells of origin, able to impact upon the activities of other cells in the local microenvironment, making the rational design of MSC paracrine activities an encouraging strategy to reproducibly modulate cell therapies. The precise mechanisms by which the secretome is modulated by the microenvironment, however, remain elusive. Controlling MSC growth conditions with oxygen tension, growth factor composition, and mechanical properties may serve to directly influence paracrine activity. Our growing understanding implicates components of the mechanotransduction machinery in translating both mechanical and chemical cues from the environment into alterations in gene regulation and varied paracrine activity. As technologies are developed to manufacture MSCs, advances in bioengineering and novel insight of how the extracellular environment affects MSC paracrine activity will play a pivotal role in the generation of widespread, successful, clinical MSC therapies.
SummaryMesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have attracted great interest in recent years for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications due to their ease of isolation and multipotent differentiation capacity. In the past, MSC research has focussed on the effects of soluble cues, such as growth factors and cytokines; however, there is now increasing interest in understanding how parameters such as substrate modulus, specific extracellular matrix (ECM) components and the ways in which these are presented to the cell can influence MSC properties. Here we use surfaces of self-assembled maleimide-functionalized polystyrene-blockpoly(ethylene oxide) copolymers (PS-PEO-Ma) to investigate how the spatial arrangement of cell adhesion ligands affects MSC behaviour. By changing the ratio of PS-PEO-Ma in mixtures of block copolymer and polystyrene homopolymer, we can create surfaces with lateral spacing of the PEO-Ma domains ranging from 34 to 62 nm. Through subsequent binding of cysteine-GRGDS peptides to the maleimide-terminated end of the PEO chains in each of these domains, we are able to present tailored surfaces of controlled lateral spacing of RGD (arginine-glycine-aspartic acid) peptides to MSCs. We demonstrate that adhesion of MSCs to the RGD-functionalized block-copolymer surfaces is through specific attachment to the presented RGD motif and that this is mediated by a5, aV, b1 and b3 integrins. We show that as the lateral spacing of the peptides is increased, the ability of the MSCs to spread is diminished and that the morphology changes from well-spread cells with normal fibroblastic morphology and defined stress-fibres, to less-spread cells with numerous cell protrusions and few stress fibres. In addition, the ability of MSCs to form mature focal adhesions is reduced on substrates with increased lateral spacing. Finally, we investigate differentiation and use qRT-PCR determination of gene expression levels and a quantitative alkaline phosphatase assay to show that MSC osteogenesis is reduced on surfaces with increased lateral spacing while adipogenic differentiation is increased. We show here, for the first time, that the lateral spacing of adhesion peptides affects human MSC (hMSC) properties and might therefore be a useful parameter with which to modify hMSC behaviour in future tissue engineering strategies.
Integrins provide the primary link between mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and their surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM), with different integrin pairs having specificity for different ECM molecules or peptide sequences contained within them. It is widely acknowledged that the type of ECM present can influence MSC differentiation; however, it is yet to be determined how specific integrin-ECM interactions may alter this or how they change during differentiation. We determined that human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) express a broad range of integrins in their undifferentiated state and show a dramatic, but transient, increase in the level of α5 integrin on day 7 of osteogenesis and an increase in α6 integrin expression throughout adipogenesis. We used a nonfouling polystyrene-block-poly(ethylene oxide)-copolymer (PS-PEO) surface to present short peptides with defined integrin-binding capabilities (RGD, IKVAV, YIGSR, and RETTAWA) to hMSCs and investigate the effects of such specific integrin-ECM contacts on differentiation. hMSCs cultured on these peptides displayed different morphologies and had varying abilities to differentiate along the osteogenic and adipogenic lineages. The peptide sequences most conducive to differentiation (IKVAV for osteogenesis and RETTAWA and IKVAV for adipogenesis) were not necessarily those that were bound by those integrin subunits seen to increase during differentiation. Additionally, we also determined that presentation of RGD, which is bound by multiple integrins, was required to support long-term viability of hMSCs. Overall we confirm that integrin-ECM contacts change throughout hMSC differentiation and show that surfaces presenting defined peptide sequences can be used to target specific integrins and ultimately influence hMSC differentiation. This platform also provides information for the development of biomaterials capable of directing hMSC differentiation for use in tissue engineering therapies.
Stem cell injections for the treatment of articular cartilage damage are a promising approach to achieve tissue regeneration. However, this method is encumbered by high cell apoptosis rates, low retention in the cartilage lesion, and inefficient chondrogenesis. Here, we have used a facile, very low cost-based microfluidic technique to create visible light-cured microgels composed of gelatin norbornene (GelNB) and a poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) cross-linker. In addition, we have demonstrated that the process enables the rapid in situ microencapsulation of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hBMSCs) under biocompatible microfluidic-processing conditions for long-term maintenance. The hBMSCs exhibited an unusually high degree of chondrogenesis in the GelNB microgels with chondro-inductive media, specifically toward the hyaline cartilage structure, with significant upregulation in type II collagen expression compared to the bulk hydrogel and "gold standard" pellet culture. Overall, we have demonstrated that these protein-based microgels can be engineered as promising therapeutic candidates for articular cartilage regeneration, with additional potential to be used in a variety of other applications in regenerative medicine.
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