Current common techniques for repairing calvarial defects by autologous bone grafting and alloplastic implants have significant limitations. In this study, the authors investigated a novel alternative approach to bone repair based on peptide amphiphile nanofiber gels that are engineered to control the release of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to recruit circulating stem cells to a site of bone regeneration and facilitate bone healing by bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2).
VEGF release kinetics from peptide amphiphile gels were evaluated. Chemotactic functional scaffolds were fabricated by combining collagen sponges with peptide amphiphile gels containing VEGF. The in vitro and in vivo chemotactic activities of the scaffolds were evaluated by measuring mesenchymal stem cell migration, and angiogenic capability of the scaffolds was also evaluated. Large-scale rodent cranial bone defects were created to evaluate bone regeneration after implanting the scaffolds and other control materials.
VEGF was released from peptide amphiphile in a controlled-release manner. In vitro migration of mesenchymal stem cells was significantly greater when exposed to chemotactic functional scaffolds compared to control scaffolds. In vivo chemotaxis was evidenced by migration of tracer-labeled mesenchymal stem cells to the chemotactic functional scaffolds. Chemotactic functional scaffolds showed significantly increased angiogenesis in vivo. Successful bone regeneration was noted in the defects treated with chemotactic functional scaffolds and BMP-2.
The authors’ observations suggest that this bioengineered construct successfully acts as a chemoattractant for circulating mesenchymal stem cells because of controlled release of VEGF from the peptide amphiphile gels. The chemotactic functional scaffolds may play a role in the future design of clinically relevant bone graft substitutes for large-scale bone defects.