This study aimed to elucidate the role of charge in mediating chondrocyte response to loading by employing synthetic 3D hydrogels. Specifically, neutral poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogels were employed where negatively charged chondroitin sulfate (ChS), one of the main extracellular matrix components of cartilage, was systematically incorporated into the PEG network at 0%, 20% or 40% to control the fixed charge density. PEG hydrogels were employed as a control environment for extracellular events which occur as a result of loading, but which are not associated with a charged matrix (e.g., cell deformation and fluid flow). Freshly isolated bovine articular chondrocytes were embedded in the hydrogels and subject to dynamic mechanical stimulation (0.3 Hz, 15% amplitude strains, 6 h) and assayed for nitric oxide production, cell proliferation, proteoglycan synthesis, and collagen deposition. In the absence of loading, incorporation of charge inhibited cell proliferation by ~ 75%, proteoglycan synthesis by ~ 22-50% depending on ChS content, but had no affect on collagen deposition. Dynamic loading had no effect on cellular responses in PEG hydrogels. However, dynamically loading 20% ChS gels inhibited nitrite production by 50%, cell proliferation by 40%, but stimulated proteoglycan and collagen deposition by 162% and 565%, respectively. Dynamic loading of 40% ChS hydrogels stimulated nitrite production by 62% and proteoglycan synthesis by 123%, but inhibited cell proliferation by 54% and collagen deposition by 52%. Upon removing the load and culturing under free-swelling conditions for 36 h, the enhanced matrix synthesis observed in the 20% ChS gels was not maintained suggesting that loading is necessary to stimulate matrix production. In conclusion, extracellular events associated with a charged matrix have a dramatic affect on how chondrocytes respond to mechanical stimulation within these artificial 3D matrices suggesting that streaming potentials and/or dynamic changes in osmolarity may be important regulators of chondrocytes while cell deformation and fluid flow appear to have less of an effect. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Villanueva, I., Gladem, S. K., Kessler, J., & Bryant, S. J. (2010). Dynamic loading stimulates chondrocyte biosynthesis when encapsulated in charged hydrogels prepared from poly(ethylene glycol) and chondroitin sulfate. Matrix Biology, 29(1), 51–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matbio.2009.08.004