BACKGROUND: The three-dimensional (3D) system is one of the important factors to engineer a biocompatible and functional scaffold for the applications of cell-based therapies for cartilage repair. The 3D alginate hydrogels system has previously been shown to potentially promote chondrogenesis. The chondrocytic differentiation of co-cultured adipose-derived stem cells (ADSCs) and nasal chondrocytes (NCs) within alginate constructs are hypothesized to be influenced by concentration of alginate hydrogel. In this study, we evaluated the effects of alginate concentration on chondrogenic differentiation of ADSCs and NCs co-cultured in a biological approach.
METHOD: The co-cultured cells of 2:1 ADSCs-to-NCs ratio were encapsulated in alginate constructs in one of three concentrations (1.0%, 1.2% and 1.5%) and cultured under serum free conditions for 7 days. Cell viability, cell proliferation, immunohistochemical, gycosaminogylycans (GAG) synthesis, and gene expression were examined.
RESULTS: Overall, the 1.2% alginate concentration group was relatively effective in chondrocytic differentiation in comparable to other groups. The cell morphology, cell viability, and cell proliferation revealed initial chondrogenic differentiation by the formation of cell clusters as well as the high permeability for exchange of solutes. The formation of newly synthesis cartilage-specific extracellular matrix in 1.2% group was demonstrated by positive immunohistochemical staining of collagen type II. The co-cultured cells in 1.2% group highly expressed COL II, ACP and SOX-9, compared to 1.0% and 1.5% groups, denote the retention of cartilaginous-specific phenotype by suppressing the undifferentiation stem cell markers of SOX-2 and OCT-4. The study showed 1.2% group was less likely to differentiate towards osteogenesis by downregulating hyperthrophy chondrocytic gene of COL X and osseous marker genes of OSC and OSP.
CONCLUSION: This study suggests that variations in the alginate concentration of co-cultured ADSCs and NCs influenced the chondrogenesis. The remarkable biological performance on chondrogenic differentiation in regulating the concentration of alginate 3D culture provides new insights into the cell cross-talk and demonstrates the effectiveness in regenerative therapies of cartilage defects in tissue engineering.
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