Tuning microenvironment modulus and biochemical composition promotes human mesenchymal stem cell tenogenic differentiation

Matthew S. Rehmann, Jesus I. Luna, Emanual Michael Maverakis, April M. Kloxin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are promising for the regeneration of tendon and ligament tissues. Toward realizing this potential, microenvironment conditions are needed for promoting robust lineage-specific differentiation into tenocytes/ligament fibroblasts. Here, we utilized a statistical design of experiments approach to examine combinations of matrix modulus, composition, and soluble factors in human MSC tenogenic/ligamentogenic differentiation. Specifically, well-defined poly(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogels were synthesized using thiol-ene chemistry providing a bioinert base for probing cell response to extracellular matrix cues. Monomer concentrations were varied to achieve a range of matrix moduli (E 10-90 kPa), and different ratios of integrin-binding peptides were incorporated (GFOGER and RGDS for collagen and fibronectin, respectively), mimicking aspects of developing tendon/ligament tissue. A face-centered central composite response surface design was utilized to understand the contributions of these cues to human MSC differentiation in the presence of soluble factors identified to promote tenogenesis/ligamentogenesis (BMP-13 and ascorbic acid). Increasing modulus and collagen mimetic peptide content increased relevant gene expression and protein production or retention (scleraxis, collagen I, tenascin-C). These findings could inform the design of materials for tendon/ligament regeneration. More broadly, the design of experiments enabled efficient data acquisition and analysis, requiring fewer replicates than if each factor had been varied one at a time. This approach can be combined with other stimuli (for example, mechanical stimulation) toward a better mechanistic understanding of differentiation down these challenging lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1162-1174
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part A
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • cell microenvironment
  • design of experiments
  • hydrogel
  • mesenchymal stem cell
  • tendon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Metals and Alloys

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