Influence of fiber orientation in electrospun polymer scaffolds on viability, adhesion and differentiation of articular chondrocytes


Degradable polymers with a tailorable degradation rate might be promising candidate materials for biomaterial-based cartilage repair. In view of the poor intrinsic healing capability of cartilage, implantation of autologous chondrocytes seeded on a biocompatible slow degrading polymer might be an encouraging approach to improve cartilage repair in the future. This study was undertaken to test if the fiber orientation (random versus aligned) of two different degradable polymers and a polymer intended for long term applications could influence primary articular chondrocytes growth and ultrastructure. A degradable copoly(ether)esterurethane (PDC) was synthesized via co-condensation of poly(p-dioxanone)diol and poly(ε-caprolactone)diol using an aliphatic diisocyanate as linker. Poly(p-dioxanone) (PPDO) was applied as commercially available degradable polymer, while polyetherimide (PEI) was chosen as biomaterial enabling surface functionalization. The fibrous scaffolds of PDC and PPDO were obtained by electrospinning using 1,1,1,3,3,3 hexafluoro-2-propanol (HFP), while for PEI dimethyl acetamide (DMAc) was applied as solvent. Primary porcine articular chondrocytes were seeded at different cell densities on the fibrous polymer scaffolds and analyzed for viability (fluorescein diacetate/ethidiumbromide staining), for type II collagen synthesis (immunolabelling), ultrastructure and orientation on the fibers (SEM: scanning electron microscopy). Vital chondrocytes adhered on all electrospun scaffolds irrespective of random and aligned topologies. In addition, the chondrocytes produced the cartilage-specific type II collagen on all tested polymer topologies suggesting their differentiated functions. SEM revealed an almost flattened chondrocytes shape on scaffolds with random fiber orientation: whereby chondrocytes growth remained mainly restricted to the scaffold surface. On aligned fibers the chondrocytes exhibited a more spindle-shaped morphology with rougher cell surfaces but only a minority of the cells aligned according to the fibers. As a next step the reduction of the fiber diameter of electrospun scaffolds should be addressed as an important parameter to mimic cartilage ECM structure.
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