Delivery of biofactors in a precise and controlled fashion remains a clinical challenge. Stimuli-responsive delivery systems can facilitate 'on-demand' release of therapeutics in response to a variety of physiologic triggering mechanisms (e.g. pH, temperature). However, few systems to date have taken advantage of mechanical inputs from the microenvironment to initiate drug release. Here, we developed mechanically-activated microcapsules (MAMCs) that are designed to deliver therapeutics in an on-demand fashion in response to the mechanically loaded environment of regenerating musculoskeletal tissues, with the ultimate goal of furthering tissue repair. To establish a suite of microcapsules with different thresholds for mechano-activation, we first manipulated MAMC physical dimensions and composition, and evaluated their mechano-response under both direct 2D compression and in 3D matrices mimicking the extracellular matrix properties and dynamic loading environment of regenerating tissue. To demonstrate the feasibility of this delivery system, we used an engineered cartilage model to test the efficacy of mechanically-instigated release of TGF-β3 on the chondrogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells. These data establish a novel platform by which to tune the release of therapeutics and/or regenerative factors based on the physiologic dynamic mechanical loading environment, and will find widespread application in the repair and regeneration of numerous musculoskeletal tissues.
Keywords: biomaterials; drug delivery; microcapsules; stimuli-responsive; tissue engineering.