Effective skin regeneration therapies require a successful interface between progenitor cells and biocompatible delivery systems. We previously demonstrated the efficiency of a biomimetic pullulan-collagen hydrogel scaffold for improving bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell survival within ischemic skin wounds by creating a "stem cell niche" that enhances regenerative cytokine secretion. Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ASCs) represent an even more appealing source of stem cells because of their abundance and accessibility, and in this study we explored the utility of ASCs for hydrogel-based therapies. To optimize hydrogel cell seeding, a rapid, capillary force-based approach was developed and compared with previously established cell seeding methods. ASC viability and functionality following capillary hydrogel seeding were then analyzed in vitro and in vivo. In these experiments, ASCs were seeded more efficiently by capillary force than by traditional methods and remained viable and functional in this niche for up to 14 days. Additionally, hydrogel seeding of ASCs resulted in the enhanced expression of multiple stemness and angiogenesis-related genes, including Oct4, Vegf, Mcp-1, and Sdf-1. Moving in vivo, hydrogel delivery improved ASC survival, and application of both murine and human ASC-seeded hydrogels to splinted murine wounds resulted in accelerated wound closure and increased vascularity when compared with control wounds treated with unseeded hydrogels. In conclusion, capillary seeding of ASCs within a pullulan-collagen hydrogel bioscaffold provides a convenient and simple way to deliver therapeutic cells to wound environments. Moreover, ASC-seeded constructs display a significant potential to accelerate wound healing that can be easily translated to a clinical setting.
Keywords: Adipose stem cells; Angiogenesis; Cellular therapy; Cytokines; Seeding.