Evaluating material-driven regeneration in a tissue engineered human in vitro bone defect model

Bregje W M de Wildt, Esther E A Cramer, Leanne S de Silva, Keita Ito, Debby Gawlitta, Sandra Hofmann

Published: January 2023


Advanced in vitro human bone defect models can contribute to the evaluation of materials for in situ bone regeneration, addressing both translational and ethical concerns regarding animal models. In this study, we attempted to develop such a model to study material-driven regeneration, using a tissue engineering approach. By co-culturing human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) with human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (hBMSCs) on silk fibroin scaffolds with in vitro critically sized defects, the growth of vascular-like networks and three-dimensional bone-like tissue was facilitated. After a model build-up phase of 28 days, materials were artificially implanted and HUVEC and hBMSC migration, cell-material interactions, and osteoinduction were evaluated 14 days after implantation. The materials physiologically relevant for bone regeneration included a platelet gel as blood clot mimic, cartilage spheres as soft callus mimics, and a fibrin gel as control. Although the in vitro model was limited in the evaluation of immune responses, hallmarks of physiological bone regeneration were observed in vitro. These included the endothelial cell chemotaxis induced by the blood clot mimic and the mineralization of the soft callus mimic. Therefore, the present in vitro model could contribute to an improved pre-clinical evaluation of biomaterials while reducing the need for animal experiments.

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