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Keywords:

  • hydrogel;
  • cell therapy;
  • spinal cord injury;
  • hyaluronan;
  • cell scaffold

Abstract

No effective clinical treatment currently exists for traumatic spinal cord injury. Cell replacement therapy holds promise for attaining functional repair. Cells may be delivered directly or near the injury site; however, this strategy requires a delivery vehicle to maintain cell viability. We have identified an injectable, biocompatible, and biodegradable hydrogel scaffold composed of hyaluronan (HA) and methylcellulose (MC) that may be an effective scaffold for therapeutic cell delivery. The purpose of the present study was to determine the effects of polymer concentration on HAMC mechanical strength, gelation time, and cell viability. The yield stress of HAMC, a measure of mechanical stiffness, was tunable via manipulation of MC and HA content. Measurement of the elastic and storage moduli as functions of time revealed that HAMC gels in less than 5 min at physiological temperatures. Human umbilical tissue-derived cells encapsulated in HAMC were homogenously and stably distributed over 3 days in culture and extended processes into the scaffold. Cell viability was stable over this period in all but the most concentrated HAMC formulation. Because of its strength-tunability, rapid gelation, and ability to maintain cell viability, HAMC is a promising vehicle for cell delivery and is being tested in ongoing in vivo studies. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.