Integration of mesenchymal stem cell sheet and bFGF-loaded fibrin gel in knitted PLGA scaffolds favorable for tendon repair
Tendon injuries are common and require a long time to heal, and are particularly associated with some adverse problems such as adhesion and rupture. Herein, we aim to develop new bioactive scaffolds endowed with stem cell sheets and growth factors to enable cell migration and proliferation favorable for tendon regeneration in situ. An exogenous basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF)-loaded fibrin gel was firstly incorporated into the porous network of knitted poly(lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) scaffolds and then sheets of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were also integrated into the scaffolds. It was shown that the pores in the knitted PLGA scaffold were readily filled with a complex network of fibrin fiber gel and the fibrin fibers were beneficial for the controlled release of bFGF over a long time period. After transplantation in a critical-size Achilles tendon defect model (7 mm) in the rat right hindlimb, gross observation revealed no immunologic incompatibility or rejection derived from the scaffold systems. It was observed that the MSC sheets contributed directly to tendon regeneration, and exerted an environment-modifying effect on the injuries in situ, consistent with the beneficial effect of bFGF. It was interesting that the knitted PLGA–fibrin gel scaffolds loaded with MSC sheets and bFGF showed the highest expression of tendon-related gene markers and outstanding repair efficacy, including appreciable biomechanical strength and native-like histological microstructures. Therefore, the integration of MSC sheets and bFGF into PLGA/bFGF–fibrin gel scaffolds may stimulate the proliferation and tenogenic differentiation of MSCs in situ and synergistically enhance the injured tendon reconstruction.