Background: Regenerative medicine aims to obviate the need for autologous grafting through the use of bioengineered constructs that combine stem cells, growth factors, and biocompatible vehicles. Human mesenchymal stem cells and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) have both shown promise for use in this context, the former because of their pluripotent capacity and the latter because of its chemotactic activity. The authors harnessed the regenerative potential of human mesenchymal stem cells and VEGF to develop a chemotactic scaffold for use in tissue engineering. Methods: Human mesenchymal stem cells were transduced with human VEGF via lentivirus particles to secrete VEGF. The chemotactic activity of the VEGF-transduced stem cells was evaluated via a trans-well assay. Migration through semipermeable membranes was significantly greater in chambers filled with medium conditioned by VEGF-transduced cells. VEGF-transduced cells were then seeded on apatite-coated poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) scaffolds, thereby creating the Smart Scaffold. To determine in vivo angiogenesis, the Smart Scaffolds were implanted into subcutaneous pockets in the backs of nude mice. Results: Significantly larger numbers of capillaries were observed in the Smart Scaffold compared with control implants on immunohistologic studies. For the chemotactic in vivo study, human mesenchymal stem cells tagged with a fluorescent dye (1,1-dioctadecyl-3,3,3,3-tetramethylindotricarbocyanine iodide) were injected intravenously via tail vein after the subcutaneous implantation of the Smart Scaffolds. In vivo fluorescent imaging revealed that fluorescent dye-tagged human mesenchymal stem cells successfully accumulated within the Smart Scaffolds. Conclusion: These observations suggest that VEGF may play a vital role in the design of clinically relevant tissue regeneration graft substitutes through its angiogenic effects and ability to chemoattract mesenchymal stem cells.
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