The effects of local bFGF release and uniaxial strain on cellular adaptation and gene expression in a 3D environment: implications for ligament tissue engineering

Tissue Eng. 2007 Nov;13(11):2721-31. doi: 10.1089/ten.2006.0434.


The objectives of this investigation were (1) to characterize the growth factor release profile of a basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)-coated three-dimensional (3D) polymer scaffold under static and cyclically strained conditions, and (2) to delineate the individual and collective contributions of locally released bFGF and mechanical strain on cellular morphology and gene expression in this 3D system. Scaffolds were treated with I(125)-bFGF and subjected to mechanical strain or maintained in a static environment and the media sampled for factor release over a period of 6 days. Over the first 10 hours, a burst release of 25% of the incorporated growth factor into the surrounding media was noted. At 24 hours, approximately 40% of the bFGF was released into the media, after which steady state was achieved and minimal subsequent release was noted. Mechanical stimulation had no effect on growth factor release from the scaffold in this system. To test the concerted effects of bFGF and mechanical stimulation on bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs), scaffolds were loaded with 0, 100, or 500 ng of bFGF, seeded with cells, and subjected to mechanical strain or maintained in a static environment. Scaffolds were harvested at 1, 7, and 21 days for RT-PCR and histomorphometry. All scaffolds subjected to growth factor and/or mechanical stimulation demonstrated cellular adherence and spreading at 21 days. Conversely, in the absence of both bFGF and mechanical stimulation, cells demonstrated minimal cytoplasmic spread. Moreover, at 21 days, cells subjected to both mechanical stimulation and bFGF (500 ng) demonstrated the highest upregulation of stress-resistive (collagen I, III) and stress-responsive proteins (tenascin-C). The effect of growth factor may be dose sensitive, however, as unstrained scaffolds treated with 100 ng of bFGF demonstrated upregulation of gene expression comparable to strained scaffolds treated with lower doses of bFGF (0 or 100 ng). In conclusion, results from this study suggest that the stimulatory effects of bFGF are dose sensitive and appear to be influenced by the addition of mechanical strain. The concurrent application of biochemical and mechanical stimuli may be important in promoting the adaptation of BMSCs and driving the transcription of genes essential for synthesis of a functional ligament replacement tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible*
  • Collagen Type I / metabolism
  • Collagen Type III / metabolism
  • Culture Media
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression*
  • Iodine Radioisotopes / metabolism
  • Ligaments / physiology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Polyesters / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Stromal Cells / cytology
  • Stromal Cells / physiology
  • Tenascin / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry*


  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible
  • Collagen Type I
  • Collagen Type III
  • Culture Media
  • Iodine Radioisotopes
  • Polyesters
  • Tenascin
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2
  • polycaprolactone