In vivo studies of co-immobilization of human osteoprogenitors and endothelial cells within alginate microspheres

This work reports the co-iimobilization of bone and vascular cells and was carried out in collaboration with the team of Professor Joelle Amédée, from INSERM U.577, University Bordeaux 2 (France).

Grellier M, Granja PL, Fricain J-C, Bidarra SJ, Renard M, Bareille R, Bourget C, Amédée J, Barbosa MA. The effect of the co-immobilization of human osteoprogenitors and endothelial cells within alginate microspheres on mineralization in a bone defect. Biomaterials 2009; In Press.

Bone regeneration seems to be dependent on cell communication between osteogenic and endothelial cells arising from surrounding blood vessels. This study aims to determine whether endothelial cells can regulate the osteogenic potential of osteoprogenitor cells in vitro and in vivo, in a long bone defect, when co-immobilized in alginate microspheres. Alginate is a natural polymer widely used as a biomaterial for cell encapsulation. Human osteoprogenitors (HOP) from bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells were immobilized alone or together with human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) inside irradiated, oxidized and RGD-grafted alginate microspheres. Immobilized cells were cultured in dynamic conditions and cell metabolic activity increased during three weeks. The gene expression of alkaline phosphatase and octeocalcin, both specific markers of the osteoblastic phenotype, and mineralization deposits were upregulated in co-immobilized HOPs and HUVECs, comparing to the immobilization of monocultures. VEGF secretion was also increased when HOPs were co-immobilized with HUVECs. Microspheres containing co-cultures were further implanted in a bone defect and bone formation was analysed by µCT and histology at 3 and 6 weeks post-implantation. Mineralization was observed inside and around the implanted microspheres containing the immobilized cells. However, when HOPs were co-immobilized with HUVECs, mineralization significantly increased. These findings demonstrate that co-immobilization of osteogenic and endothelial cells within RGD-grafted alginate microspheres provides a promising strategy for bone tissue engineering.


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