Background: Development of a tissue engineered bone graft requires efficient bioactivity screening of biomaterials in clinically relevant three-dimensional systems. The authors analyzed the relative osteogenic potential of two three-dimensional biomaterials-type I collagen and poly(L-lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA)- to support in vitro mineralization of human mesenchymal stem cells. Methods: Human mesenchymal stem cells were seeded onto three-dimensional PLGA or type I collagen scaffolds; incubated in osteogenic media; and harvested at 1, 4, and 7 days. Messenger RNA expression was analyzed using quantitative real-time reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction for osteogenic (i.e., alkaline phosphatase, osteocalcin, bone sialoprotein, Runx2/core binding factor α-1) and angiogenic (i.e., vascular endothelial growth factor and interleukin-8) markers. Alkaline phosphatase enzyme activity was measured at 4 and 7 days. Mineralization was detected by alizarin red staining and micro-computed tomographic imaging at 8 and 12 weeks. Mineral composition was analyzed by solid-phase nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Results: Early osteogenic and angiogenic markers, and alkaline phosphatase enzyme activity, were up-regulated on PLGA versus collagen scaffolds. However, long-term mineralization endpoints favored type I collagen. By 8 weeks, human mesenchymal stem cells on collagen exhibited significantly higher mineral density by micro-computed tomographic and alizarin red staining than PLGA scaffolds. Both biomaterials deposited calcium hydroxyapatite as determined by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Conclusions: The authors' findings suggest that despite early PLGA induction of osteogenic gene expression, long-term mineralization occurs earlier and to a greater extent on type I collagen, highlighting collagen as a potential bone tissue engineering scaffold in the human mesenchymal stem cell niche. When screening the relative osteoinductive profiles of three-dimensional bone tissue engineering scaffolds in vitro, the authors recommend including long-term endpoints of osteogenesis.
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