Tissue engineering. Part A

Crosslinkable hydrogels derived from cartilage, meniscus, and tendon tissue.

PMID 25557049


Decellularized tissues have proven to be versatile matrices for the engineering of tissues and organs. These matrices usually consist of collagens, matrix-specific proteins, and a set of largely undefined growth factors and signaling molecules. Although several decellularized tissues have found their way to clinical applications, their use in the engineering of cartilage tissue has only been explored to a limited extent. We set out to generate hydrogels from several tissue-derived matrices, as hydrogels are the current preferred cell carriers for cartilage repair. Equine cartilage, meniscus, and tendon tissue was harvested, decellularized, enzymatically digested, and functionalized with methacrylamide groups. After photo-cross-linking, these tissue digests were mechanically characterized. Next, gelatin methacrylamide (GelMA) hydrogel was functionalized with these methacrylated tissue digests. Equine chondrocytes and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) (both from three donors) were encapsulated and cultured in vitro up to 6 weeks. Gene expression (COL1A1, COL2A1, ACAN, MMP-3, MMP-13, and MMP-14), cartilage-specific matrix formation, and hydrogel stiffness were analyzed after culture. The cartilage, meniscus, and tendon digests were successfully photo-cross-linked into hydrogels. The addition of the tissue-derived matrices to GelMA affected chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs, although no consequent improvement was demonstrated. For chondrocytes, the tissue-derived matrix gels performed worse compared to GelMA alone. This work demonstrates for the first time that native tissues can be processed into crosslinkable hydrogels for the engineering of tissues. Moreover, the differentiation of encapsulated cells can be influenced in these stable, decellularized matrix hydrogels.