The invasive and complicated procedures involving the use of traditional stem cells limit their application in bone tissue engineering. Cell-free, tissue-engineered bones often have complex scaffold structures and are usually engineered using several growth factors (GFs), thus leading to costly and difficult preparations. Urine-derived stem cells (USCs), a type of autologous stem cell isolated noninvasively and with minimum cost, are expected to solve the typical problems of using traditional stem cells to engineer bones. In this study, a graphene oxide (GO)-modified silk fibroin (SF)/nanohydroxyapatite (nHA) scaffold loaded with USCs was developed for immunomodulation and bone regeneration.
The SF/nHA scaffolds were prepared via lyophilization and cross-linked with GO using 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide hydrochloride (EDC) and N-hydroxy succinimide (NHS). Scaffolds containing various concentrations of GO were characterized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), the elastic modulus test, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and X-ray photoelectron spectrometer (XPS). Examinations of cell adhesion, proliferation, viability, morphology, alkaline phosphatase activity, and osteogenesis-related gene expression were performed to compare the osteogenesis-related biological behaviors of USCs cultured on the scaffolds. The effect of USC-laden scaffolds on the differentiation of macrophages was tested using ELISA, qRT-PCR, and immunofluorescence staining. Subcutaneous implantations in rats were performed to evaluate the inflammatory response of the USC-laden scaffolds after implantation. The scaffolds loaded with USCs were implanted into a cranial defect model in rats to repair bone defects. Micro-computed tomography (μCT) analyses and histological evaluation were performed to evaluate the bone repair effects.
GO modification enhanced the mechanical properties of the scaffolds. Scaffolds containing less than 0.5% GO had good biocompatibility and promoted USC proliferation and osteogenesis. The scaffolds loaded with USCs induced the M2-type differentiation and inhibited the M1-type differentiation of macrophages. The USC-laden scaffolds containing 0.1% GO exhibited the best capacity for promoting the M2-type differentiation of macrophages and accelerating bone regeneration and almost bridged the site of the rat cranial defects at 12 weeks after surgery.
This composite system has the capacity for immunomodulation and the promotion of bone regeneration and shows promising potential for clinical applications of USC-based, tissue-engineered bones.