Bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC) are pluripotent progenitor cells that can regenerate different skeletal tissues in response to environmental signals. In this study, we used highly porous, structurally stable three-dimensional polymer foams in conjunction with specific regulatory molecules to selectively differentiate mammalian BMSC into either cartilaginous or bone-like tissues. Bovine BMSC were expanded in monolayers and cultured on 5-mm-diameter, 2-mm-thick foams made of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) and poly(ethylene glycol). Constructs maintained their original size and shape for up to 4 weeks of culture and supported BMSC growth and production of extracellular matrix (ECM). By proper use of chondrogenic (dexamethasone, insulin, transforming growth factor-beta1) or osteogenic (dexamethasone, beta-glycerophosphate) medium supplements, we could control whether the generated ECM was cartilaginous (containing collagen type II and sulfated glycosaminoglycans) or bone-like (containing osteocalcin, osteonectin, and mineralized foci). After 4 weeks of cultivation, cartilaginous and bone-like ECM were uniformly distributed throughout the construct volume and respectively represented 34.2 +/- 9.3% and 12.6 +/- 3.2% of the total available area. BMSC culture on poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid)/poly(ethylene glycol) foams provides a three-dimensional model system to study the development of mesenchymal tissues in vitro and has potential applications in engineering autologous grafts for skeletal tissue repair.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.