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Keywords:

  • photocrosslink;
  • alginate;
  • hyaluronic acid;
  • mesenchymal stem cell;
  • chondrogenesis

Abstract

Ionic crosslinking of alginate via divalent cations allows for high viability of an encapsulated cell population, and is an effective biomaterial for supporting a spherical chondrocyte morphology. However, such crosslinking chemistry does not allow for injectable and stable hydrogels which are more appropriate for clinical applications. In this study, the addition of methacrylate groups to the alginate polymer chains was utilized so as to allow the free radical polymerization initiated by a photoinitiator during UV light exposure. This approach establishes covalent crosslinks between methacrylate groups instead of the ionic crosslinks formed by the calcium in unmodified alginate. Although this approach has been well described in the literature, there are currently no reports of stem cell differentiation and subsequent chondrocyte gene expression profiles in photocrosslinked alginate. In this study, we demonstrate the utility of photocrosslinked alginate hydrogels containing interpenetrating hyaluronic acid chains to support stem cell chondrogenesis. We report high cell viability and no statistical difference in metabolic activity between mesenchymal stem cells cultured in calcium crosslinked alginate and photocrosslinked alginate for up to 10 days of culture. Furthermore, chondrogenic gene markers are expressed throughout the study, and indicate robust differentiation up to the day 14 time point. At early time points, days 1 and 7, the addition of hyaluronic acid to the photocrosslinked scaffolds upregulates gene markers for both the chondrocyte and the superficial zone chondrocyte phenotype. Taken together, we show that photocrosslinked, injectable alginate shows significant potential as a delivery mechanism for cell-based cartilage repair therapies. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A, 2013.