Vascularization is a critical process during bone regeneration. The lack of vascular networks leads to insufficient oxygen and nutrients supply, which compromises the survival of regenerated bone. One strategy for improving the survival and osteogenesis of tissue-engineered bone grafts involves the coculture of endothelial cells (ECs) with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). Moreover, bone regeneration is especially challenging due to its unique structural properties with aligned topographical cues, with which stem cells can interact. Inspired by the aligned fibrillar nanostructures in human cancellous bone, we fabricated polycaprolactone (PCL) electrospun fibers with aligned and random morphology, cocultured human MSCs with human umbilical vein ECs (HUVECs), and finally investigated how these two factors modulate osteogenic differentiation of human MSCs (hMSCs). After optimizing cell ratio, a hMSCs/HUVECs ratio (90:10) was considered to be the best combination for osteogenic differentiation. Coculture results showed that hMSCs and HUVECs adhered to and proliferated well on both scaffolds. The aligned structure of PCL fibers strongly influenced the morphology and orientation of hMSCs and HUVECs; however, fiber alignment was observed to not affect alkaline phosphate (ALP) activity or mineralization of hMSCs compared with random scaffolds. More importantly, cocultured cells on both random and aligned scaffolds had significantly higher ALP activities than monoculture groups, which indicated that coculture with HUVECs provided a larger relative contribution to the osteogenesis of hMSCs compared with fiber alignment. Taken together, we conclude that coculture of hMSCs with ECs is an effective strategy to promote osteogenesis on electrospun scaffolds, and aligned fibers could be introduced to regenerate bone tissues with oriented topography without significant deleterious effects on hMSCs differentiation. This study shows the ability to grow oriented tissue-engineered cocultures with significant increases in osteogenesis over monoculture conditions. Impact statement This work demonstrates an effective method of enhancing osteogenesis of mesenchymal stromal cells on electrospun scaffolds through coculturing with endothelial cells. Furthermore, we provide the optimized conditions for cocultures on electrospun fibrous scaffolds and engineered bone tissues with oriented topography on aligned fibers. This study demonstrates promising findings for growing oriented tissue-engineered cocultures with significant increase in osteogenesis over monoculture conditions.
Full Access Link: Tissue Engineering - Part C: Methods