The cellular microenvironment is dynamic, remodeling tissues lifelong. The biomechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) influence the function and differentiation of stem cells. While conventional artificial matrices or scaffolds for tissue engineering are primarily static models presenting well-defined stiffness, they lack the responsive changes required in dynamic physiological settings. Engineering scaffolds with varying elastic moduli is possible, but often lead to stiffening and chemical crosslinking of the molecular structure with limited control over the scaffold architecture. A family of indirectly 3D printed elastomeric nanohybrid scaffolds with thermoresponsive mechanical properties that soften by reverse self-assembling at body temperature have been developed recently. The initial stiffness and subsequent stiffness relaxation of the scaffolds regulated proliferation and differentiation of human bone-marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (hBM-MSCs) towards the chondrogenic and osteogenic lineages over 4 weeks, as measured by immunohistochemistry, histology, ELISA and qPCR. hBM-MSCs showed enhanced chondrogenic differentiation on softer scaffolds and osteogenic differentiation on stiffer ones, with similar relative expression to that of human femoral head tissue. Overall, stiffness relaxation favored osteogenic activity over chondrogenesis in vitro.
Wu, L., Magaz, A., Wang, T., Liu, C., Darbyshire, A., Loizidou, M., … Song, W. (2018). Stiffness memory of indirectly 3D-printed elastomer nanohybrid regulates chondrogenesis and osteogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells. Biomaterials, 186, 64–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biomaterials.2018.09.013