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Stem cell delivery in tissue-specific hydrogel enabled meniscal repair in an orthotopic rat model

Yuan, Xiaoning, Wei, Yiyong, Villasante, Aránzazu, Ng, Johnathan J.D., Arkonac, Derya E., Chao, Pen-hsiu Grace, Vunjak-Novakovic, Gordana
Biomaterials 2017
animal models, biomimetics, collagen, explants, extracellular matrix, humans, hydrogels, image analysis, mineralization, osteoarthritis, proteoglycans, rats, stem cells, tissue repair, tissues
Interest in non-invasive injectable therapies has rapidly risen due to their excellent safety profile and ease of use in clinical settings. Injectable hydrogels can be derived from the extracellular matrix (ECM) of specific tissues to provide a biomimetic environment for cell delivery and enable seamless regeneration of tissue defects. We investigated the in situ delivery of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) in decellularized meniscus ECM hydrogel to a meniscal defect in a nude rat model. First, decellularized meniscus ECM hydrogel retained tissue-specific proteoglycans and collagens, and significantly upregulated expression of fibrochondrogenic markers by hMSCs versus collagen hydrogel alone in vitro. The meniscus ECM hydrogel in turn supported delivery of hMSCs for integrative repair of a full-thickness defect model in meniscal explants after in vitro culture and in vivo subcutaneous implantation. When applied to an orthotopic model of meniscal injury in nude rat, hMSCs in meniscus ECM hydrogel were retained out to eight weeks post-injection, contributing to tissue regeneration and protection from joint space narrowing, pathologic mineralization, and osteoarthritis development, as evidenced by macroscopic and microscopic image analysis. Based on these findings, we propose the use of tissue-specific meniscus ECM-derived hydrogel for the delivery of therapeutic hMSCs to treat meniscal injury.