In bone tissue engineering, stem cells are known to form inhomogeneous bone-like nodules on a micrometric scale. Herein, micro- and nano-infrared (IR) micro-spectroscopies were used to decipher the chemical composition of the bone-like nodule. Histological and immunohistochemical analyses revealed a cohesive tissue with bone-markers positive cells surrounded by dense mineralized type-I collagen. Micro-IR gathered complementary information indicating a non-mature collagen at the top and periphery and a mature collagen within the nodule. Atomic force microscopy combined to IR (AFM-IR) analyses showed distinct spectra of "cell" and "collagen" rich areas. In contrast to the "cell" area, spectra of "collagen" area revealed the presence of carbohydrate moieties of collagen and/or the presence of glycoproteins. However, it was not possible to determine the collagen maturity, due to strong bands overlapping and/or possible protein orientation effects. Such findings could help developing protocols to allow a reliable characterization of in vitro generated complex bone tissues.
Keywords: AFM-IR spectroscopy; Bone-like nodule; Differentiated stem cells; Infrared microscopy; Nano/micro scale.
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