Large bone defects caused by severe trauma, infection or tumor resection are still a major challenge for orthopaedic surgery. The key concept for successful bone regeneration consists of combining the osteoinductive effect of osteogenic cells with a suitable carrier structure to promote osteoblastic differentiation and optimal matrix production. Therefore, periosteal cells cultured in polyglycolic-polylactid acid (PGLA) fleeces were investigated for their osteogenic differentiation and used to repair critical size bone defects in a rabbit model. Periosteal cells were isolated from New Zealand White rabbits and expanded in vitro. Osteogenic differentiation was investigated by analysis of alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin production in vitro depending on culture conditions and passage number. Cells were seeded into PGLA fleeces. After further cultivation, tissue constructs were examined histologically and by immunohistochemistry for cell distribution and osteogenic differentiation. These constructs of defined size were used to repair critical size calvarial defects (group I) in rabbits compared to a defect repair with polymers only (group II) or to untreated defects (group III). Bone healing was evaluated after 4 weeks by radiodensitometry and a special histological scoring system. For early evaluation, radiodensitometry was not sensitive enough to detect differences in calcification. However, on histologic examination the group with cell/fleece constructs revealed intense formation of uncalcified bone. The mean defect closure of the experimental group I was 65%, compared to control groups II and III with 31% and 22%, respectively. The established methods of 3-D-cell culture and ex-vivo transplant assessment proved to be a valuable tool for quality assurance. The results demonstrate that the combination of periosteal cells and polymer fleeces is a tissue engineering approach, which may have clinical applications in various fields of reconstructive surgery.
Copyright 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers