Silk fibroin (SF) is a promising biomaterial for tendon repair, but its relatively rigid mechanical properties and low cell affinity have limited its application in regenerative medicine. Meanwhile, gelatin-based polymers have advantages in cell attachment and tissue remodeling but have insufficient mechanical strength to regenerate tough tissue such as tendons. Taking these aspects into account, in this study, gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA) is combined with SF to create a mechanically strong and bioactive nanofibrous scaffold (SG). The mechanical properties of SG nanofibers can be flexibly modulated by varying the ratio of SF and GelMA. Compared to SF nanofibers, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) seeded on SG fibers with optimal composition (SG7) exhibit enhanced growth, proliferation, vascular endothelial growth factor production, and tenogenic gene expression behavior. Conditioned media from MSCs cultured on SG7 scaffolds can greatly promote the migration and proliferation of tenocytes. Histological analysis and tenogenesis-related immunofluorescence staining indicate SG7 scaffolds demonstrate enhanced in vivo tendon tissue regeneration compared to other groups. Therefore, rational combinations of SF and GelMA hybrid nanofibers may help to improve therapeutic outcomes and address the challenges of tissue-engineered scaffolds for tendon regeneration.
Keywords: electrospinning; gelatin methacryloyl; mesenchymal stem cells; silk fibroin; tendon regeneration.
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