Synthetic polymers have attracted much attention in tissue engineering due to their ability to modulate biomechanical properties. This study investigated the feasibility of processing poly(epsilon-caprolactone) (PCL) homopolymer, PCL-poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) diblock, and PCL-PEG-PCL triblock copolymers into three-dimensional porous scaffolds. Properties of the various polymers were investigated by dynamic thermal analysis. The scaffolds were manufactured using the desktop robot-based rapid prototyping technique. Gross morphology and internal three-dimensional structure of scaffolds were identified by scanning electron microscopy and micro-computed tomography, which showed excellent fusion at the filament junctions, high uniformity, and complete interconnectivity of pore networks. The influences of process parameters on scaffolds' morphological and mechanical characteristics were studied. Data confirmed that the process parameters directly influenced the pore size, porosity, and, consequently, the mechanical properties of the scaffolds. The in vitro cell culture study was performed to investigate the influence of polymer nature and scaffold architecture on the adhesion of the cells onto the scaffolds using rabbit smooth muscle cells. Light, scanning electron, and confocal laser microscopy showed cell adhesion, proliferation, and extracellular matrix formation on the surface as well as inside the structure of both scaffold groups. The completely interconnected and highly regular honeycomb-like pore morphology supported bridging of the pores via cell-to-cell contact as well as production of extracellular matrix at later time points. The results indicated that the incorporation of hydrophilic PEG into hydrophobic PCL enhanced the overall hydrophilicity and cell culture performance of PCL-PEG copolymer. However, the scaffold architecture did not significantly influence the cell culture performance in this study.
With the worldwide growth of cell and tissue therapy (CTT) in treating diseases, the need of a standardized regulatory policy is of paramount concern. Research in CTT in Malaysia has reached stages of clinical trials and commercialization. In Malaysia, the regulation of CTT is under the purview of the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau (NPCB), Ministry of Health (MOH). NPCB is given the task of regulating CTT, under a new Cell and Gene Therapy Products framework, and the guidelines are currently being formulated. Apart from the laboratory accreditation, researchers are advised to follow Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Therapy from the Medical Development Division, MOH, published in 2009.
Stem cell differentiation is guided by contact with the physical microenvironment, influence by both topography and mechanical properties of the matrix. In this study, the combined effect of substratum nano-topography and mechanical stiffness in directing mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) chondrogenesis was investigated. Three polyesters of varying stiffness were thermally imprinted to create nano-grating or pillar patterns of the same dimension. The surface of the nano-patterned substrate was coated with chondroitin sulfate (CS) to provide an even surface chemistry, with cell-adhesive and chondro-inductive properties, across all polymeric substrates. The surface characteristic, mechanical modulus, and degradation of the CS-coated patterned polymeric substrates were analyzed. The cell morphology adopted on the nano-topographic surfaces were accounted by F-actin distribution, and correlated to the cell proliferation and chondrogenic differentiation outcomes. Results show that substratum stiffness and topographical cues affected MSC morphology and aggregation, and influenced the phenotypic development at the earlier stage of chondrogenic differentiation. Hyaline-like cartilage with middle/deep zone cartilage characteristics was generated on softer pillar surface, while on stiffer nano-pillar material MSCs showed potential to generate constituents of hyaline/fibro/hypertrophic cartilage. Fibro/superficial zone-like cartilage could be derived from nano-grating of softer stiffness, while stiffer nano-grating resulted in insignificant chondrogenesis. This study demonstrates the possibility of refining the phenotype of cartilage generated from MSCs by manipulating surface topography and material stiffness.
We investigated the efficacy of a muscle-stuffed vein (MSV) seeded with neural-transdifferentiated human mesenchymal stem cells as an alternative nerve conduit to repair a 15-mm sciatic nerve defect in athymic rats. Other rats received MSV conduit alone, commercial polyglycolic acid conduit (Neurotube®), reverse autograft, or were left untreated. Motor and sensory functions as well as nerve conductivity were evaluated for 12 weeks, after which the grafts were harvested for histological analyses. All rats in the treatment groups demonstrated a progressive increase in the mean Sciatic Functional Index (motor function) and nerve conduction amplitude (electrophysiological function) and showed positive withdrawal reflex (sensory function) by the 10th week of postimplantation. Autotomy, which is associated with neuropathic pain, was severe in rats treated with conduit without cells; there was mild or no autotomy in the rats of other groups. Histologically, harvested grafts from all except the untreated groups exhibited axonal regeneration with the presence of mature myelinated axons. In conclusion, treatment with MSV conduit is comparable to that of other treatment groups in supporting functional recovery following sciatic nerve injury; and the addition of cells in the conduit alleviates neuropathic pain. Impact Statement It is shown that pretreated muscle-stuffed vein conduit is comparable to that of commercial nerve conduit and autograft in supporting functional recovery following peripheral nerve injury. The addition of neural-differentiated mesenchymal stem cells in the conduit is shown to alleviate neuropathic pain.