A Magnetically Responsive Hydrogel System for Controlling the Timing of Bone Progenitor Recruitment and Differentiation Factor Deliveries

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The sequence and timing of growth factor delivery plays a crucial role in bone regeneration. While a variety of biomaterial scaffolds have been developed to provide multiple growth factor deliveries, there still exists a strong need for on-demand control over sequential delivery profiles to optimize regenerative outcomes. One particular growth factor, bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2), has established effects in the osteodifferentiation process; however, the optimal timing of its delivery is not yet known. Here, we investigate the effect of the timing of BMP-2 delivery on osteodifferentiation on both 2D and 3D cell cultures in vitro. It was shown that immediate BMP-2 delivery inhibited mouse mesenchymal stem cell (mMSC) proliferation and therefore resulted in suboptimal levels of mMSC osteodifferentiation (as measured by alkaline phosphatase activity) compared to mMSC cultures exposed to delayed BMP-2 delivery (4 day delay). Because of this, we aimed to develop a biomaterial system capable of rapidly recruiting mMSCs and exposing them to BMP-2 in a delayed manner (i.e., after a strong mMSC population has been established). This biomaterial system consisted of (i) an outer porous gelatin compartment that could be loaded with an mMSC recruitment factor (stromal cell-derived factor 1-α (SDF-1α)) for rapid establishment of a 3D mMSC culture and (ii) an inner ferrogel compartment that could deliver BMP-2 in an immediate or delayed manner, depending on when magnetic stimulation was applied. It was shown that the outer compartment was able to recruit and harbor mMSCs and that the rapidity of this recruitment could be enhanced by loading the compartment with SDF-1α. The inner ferrogel compartment enabled magnetically triggered release of BMP-2 where the timing of release could be remotely controlled from immediate to a delay of up to 11 days. This hydrogel system provides controllability over the timing between bone progenitor recruitment and osteodifferentiation factor release and can thus potentially enhance therapies that require new bone growth by optimizing the timing of these deliveries.

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ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering