Stem cell-based therapies hold great promise for enhancing tissue regeneration. However, the majority of cells die shortly after transplantation, which greatly diminishes the efficacy of stem cell-based therapies. Poor cell engraftment and survival remain a major bottleneck to fully exploiting the power of stem cells for regenerative medicine. Biomaterials such as hydrogels can serve as artificial matrices to protect cells during delivery and guide desirable cell fates. However, conventional hydrogels often lack macroporosity, which restricts cell proliferation and delays matrix deposition. Here we report the use of injectable, macroporous microribbon (μRB) hydrogels as stem cell carriers for bone repair, which supports direct cell encapsulation into a macroporous scaffold with rapid spreading. When transplanted in a critical-sized, mouse cranial defect model, μRB-based hydrogels significantly enhanced the survival of transplanted adipose-derived stromal cells (ADSCs) (81%) and enabled up to three-fold cell proliferation after 7 days. In contrast, conventional hydrogels only led to 27% cell survival, which continued to decrease over time. MicroCT imaging showed μRBs enhanced and accelerated mineralized bone repair compared to hydrogels (61% vs. 34% by week 6), and stem cells were required for bone repair to occur. These results suggest that paracrine signaling of transplanted stem cells are responsible for the observed bone repair, and enhancing cell survival and proliferation using μRBs further promoted the paracrine-signaling effects of ADSCs for stimulating endogenous bone repair. We envision μRB-based scaffolds can be broadly useful as a novel scaffold for enhancing stem cell survival and regeneration of other tissue types. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 104A: 1321-1331, 2016.
Keywords: bone; hydrogels; injectable; macroporous; stem cells.
© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.