Scaffold fiber diameter regulates human tendon fibroblast growth and differentiation

Tissue Eng Part A. 2013 Feb;19(3-4):519-28. doi: 10.1089/ten.tea.2012.0072. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


The diameter of collagen fibrils in connective tissues, such as tendons and ligaments is known to decrease upon injury or with age, leading to inferior biomechanical properties and poor healing capacity. This study tests the hypotheses that scaffold fiber diameter modulates the response of human tendon fibroblasts, and that diameter-dependent cell responses are analogous to those seen in healthy versus healing tissues. Particularly, the effect of the fiber diameter (320 nm, 680 nm, and 1.80 μm) on scaffold properties and the response of human tendon fibroblasts were determined over 4 weeks of culture. It was observed that scaffold mechanical properties, cell proliferation, matrix production, and differentiation were regulated by changes in the fiber diameter. More specifically, a higher cell number, total collagen, and proteoglycan production were found on the nanofiber scaffolds, while microfibers promoted the expression of phenotypic markers of tendon fibroblasts, such as collagen I, III, V, and tenomodulin. It is possible that the nanofiber scaffolds of this study resemble the matrix in a state of injury, stimulating the cells for matrix deposition as part of the repair process, while microfibers represent the healthy matrix with micron-sized collagen bundles, thereby inducing cells to maintain the fibroblastic phenotype. The results of this study demonstrate that controlling the scaffold fiber diameter is critical in the design of scaffolds for functional and guided connective tissue repair, and provide new insights into the role of matrix parameters in guiding soft tissue healing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure Analysis
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Tendons / cytology*
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Tensile Strength
  • Tissue Scaffolds*