Modulation of mesenchymal stem cell chondrogenesis in a tunable hyaluronic acid hydrogel microenvironment

Biomaterials. 2012 May;33(15):3835-45. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2012.01.065. Epub 2012 Feb 25.


An injectable and biodegradable hydrogel system comprising hyaluronic acid-tyramine (HA-Tyr) conjugates can safely undergo covalent cross-linking in vivo by the addition of small amounts of peroxidase and hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), with the independent tuning of the gelation rate and degree of cross-linking. Such hydrogel networks with tunable mechanical and degradation properties may provide the additional level of control needed to enhance chondrogenesis and overall cartilage tissue formation in vitro and in vivo. In this study, HA-Tyr hydrogels were explored as biomimetic matrices for caprine mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in cartilage tissue engineering. The compressive modulus, equilibrium swelling and degradation rate could be controlled by varying the concentration of H(2)O(2) as the oxidant in the oxidative coupling reaction. Cellular condensation reflected by the increase in effective number density of rounded cells in lacunae was greater in softer hydrogel matrices with lower cross-linking that displayed enhanced scaffold contracture. Conversely, within higher cross-linked matrices, cells adopted a more elongated morphology, with a reduced degree of cellular condensation. Furthermore, the degree of hydrogel cross-linking also modulated matrix biosynthesis and cartilage tissue histogenesis. Lower cross-linked matrix enhanced chondrogenesis with increases in the percentage of cells with chondrocytic morphology; biosynthetic rates of glycosaminoglycan and type II collagen; and hyaline cartilage tissue formation. With increasing cross-linking degree and matrix stiffness, a shift in MSC differentiation toward fibrous phenotypes with the formation of fibrocartilage and fibrous tissues was observed. These findings suggest that the tunable three-dimensional microenvironment of the HA-Tyr hydrogels modulates cellular condensation during chondrogenesis and has a dramatic impact on spatial organization of cells, matrix biosynthesis, and overall cartilage tissue histogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / pharmacology
  • Cartilage / drug effects
  • Cartilage / metabolism
  • Cellular Microenvironment / drug effects*
  • Chondrogenesis / drug effects*
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology
  • Extracellular Matrix / drug effects
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Goats
  • Hyaluronic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate / pharmacology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Tissue Scaffolds / chemistry
  • Tyramine / pharmacology


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Tyramine