Despite the use of collagen-derived scaffolds in regenerative medicine, little is known about the degradation mechanisms of these scaffolds in vivo. Non-crosslinked dermal sheep (NDSC) and gelatin disks were implanted subcutaneously in mice. NDSC disks showed a very low degradation rate, despite the presence of high numbers of macrophages and the influx of neutrophils. This was attributed to the presence of the matrix metalloproteinase inhibitor TIMP-1. The limited degradation occurred mainly in the later stages of the foreign body reaction, and could be attributed to (1) phagocytosis by macrophages due to a co-expression of Endo180 and MT1-MMP on these cells (intracellular degradation) and (2) the presence of MMP-13 due to an upregulation of the expression of the DDR-2 receptor (extracellular degradation). In contrast, gelatin disks degraded quickly, due to the efficient formation of large giant cells as well as the presence of MMP-13; the inhibitor TIMP-1 was absent. The DDR-2 receptor was not expressed in the gelatin disks. Endo180 and MT1-MMP were expressed, but at most times no co-expression was seen. We conclude that the physical state of collagen (native or denatured) had a dramatic outcome on the degradation rate and provoked a completely different foreign body reaction.
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