We report the fabrication of uniform electrospun poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) nanofibers incorporated with laponite (LAP) nanodisks, a synthetic clay material for osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs). In this study, a solution mixture of LAP suspension and PLGA was electrospun to form composite PLGA–LAP nanofibers with different LAP doping levels. The PLGA–LAP composite nanofibers formed were systematically characterized via different techniques. We show that the incorporation of LAP nanodisks does not significantly change the uniform PLGA fiber morphology, instead significantly improves the mechanical durability of the nanofibers. Compared to LAP-free PLGA nanofibers, the surface hydrophilicity and protein adsorption capacity of the composite nanofibers slightly increase after doping with LAP, while the hemocompatibility of the fibers does not appreciably change. The cytocompatibility of the PLGA–LAP composite nanofibers was assessed by the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay of L929 mouse fibroblasts and porcine iliac artery endothelial cells cultured onto the surface of the nanofibers. The results reveal that the incorporated LAP is beneficial to promote the cell adhesion and proliferation to some extent likely due to the improved surface hydrophilicity and protein adsorption capability of the fibers. Finally, the PLGA–LAP composite nanofibers were used as scaffolds for osteogenic differentiation of hMSCs. We show that both PLGA and PLGA–LAP composite nanofibers are able to support the osteoblast differentiation of hMSCs in osteogenic medium. Most strikingly, the doped LAP within the PLGA nanofibers is able to induce the osteoblast differentiation of hMSCs in growth medium without any inducing factors. The fabricated smooth and uniform organic–inorganic hybrid LAP-doped PLGA nanofibers may find many applications in the field of tissue engineering.
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