Application of magnetic resonance microscopy to tissue engineering: A polylactide model



Absorbable polymers are unique materials that find application as temporary scaffolds in tissue engineering. They are often extremely sensitive to histological processing and, for this reason, studying fragile, tissue-engineered constructs before implantation can be quite difficult. This research investigates the use of noninvasive imaging using magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM) as a tool to enhance the assessment of these cellular constructs. A series of cellular, polylactide constructs was developed and analyzed using a battery of tests, including MRM. Distribution of rat aortic smooth muscle cells within the scaffolds was compared as one example of a tissue engineering MRM application. Cells were loaded in varying amounts using static and dynamic methods. It was found that the cellular component was readily identified and the polymer microstructure readily assessed. Specifically, the MRM results showed a heterogeneous distribution of cells due to static loading and a homogenous distribution associated with dynamic loading, results that were not visible through biochemical tests, scanning electron microscopy, or histological evaluation independently. MRM also allowed differentiation between different levels of cellular loading. The current state of MRM is such that it is extremely useful in the refinement of polymer processing and cell seeding methods. This method has the potential, with technological advances, to be of future use in the characterization of cell–polymer interactions. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res 61: 380–390, 2002