Background: Cartilage tissue engineering is a growing field due to the lack of regenerative capacity of native tissue. The use of bioreactors for cartilage tissue engineering is common, but the results are controversial. Some studies suggest that microgravity bioreactors are ideal for chondrogenesis, while others show that mimicking hydrostatic pressure is crucial for cartilage formation. A parallel study comparing the effects of loading and unloading on chondrogenesis has not been performed.
Methods: The goal of this study was to evaluate chondrogenesis of human adipose-derived stem cells (hASC) under two different mechanical stimuli relative to static culture: microgravity and cyclic hydrostatic pressure (CHP). Pellets of hASC were cultured for 14 d under simulated microgravity using a rotating wall vessel bioreactor or under CHP (7.5 MPa, 1 Hz, 4 h · d-1) using a hydrostatic pressure vessel.
Results: We found that CHP increased mRNA expression of Aggrecan, Sox9, and Collagen II, caused a threefold increase in sulfated glycosaminoglycan production, and resulted in stronger vimentin staining intensity and organization relative to microgravity. In addition, Wnt-signaling patterns were altered in a manner that suggests that simulated microgravity decreases chondrogenic differentiation when compared to CHP.
Discussion: Our goal was to compare chondrogenic differentiation of hASC using a microgravity bioreactor and a hydrostatic pressure vessel, two commonly used bioreactors in cartilage tissue engineering. Our results indicate that CHP promotes hASC chondrogenesis and that microgravity may inhibit hASC chondrogenesis. Our findings further suggest that cartilage formation and regeneration might be compromised in space due to the lack of mechanical loading.Mellor LF, Steward AJ, Nordberg RC, Taylor MA, Loboa EG. Comparison of simulated microgravity and hydrostatic pressure for chondrogenesis of hASC. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2017; 88(4):377-384.