Transplantation of insulin-like growth factor-1 laden scaffolds combined with exercise promotes neuroregeneration and angiogenesis in a preclinical muscle injury model†
The regeneration of skeletal muscle can be permanently impaired by traumatic injuries, despite the high regenerative capacity of native muscle. An attractive therapeutic approach for treating severe muscle inuries is the implantation of off-the-shelf engineered biomimetic scaffolds into the site of tissue damage to enhance muscle regeneration. Anisotropic nanofibrillar scaffolds provide spatial patterning cues to create organized myofibers, and growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are potent inducers of both muscle regeneration as well as angiogenesis. The aim of this study was to test the therapeutic efficacy of anisotropic IGF-1-releasing collagen scaffolds combined with voluntary exercise for the treatment of acute volumetric muscle loss, with a focus on histomorphological effects. To enhance the angiogenic and regenerative potential of injured murine skeletal muscle, IGF-1-laden nanofibrillar scaffolds with aligned topography were fabricated using a shear-mediated extrusion approach, followed by growth factor adsorption. Individual scaffolds released a cumulative total of 1244 ng ± 153 ng of IGF-1 over the course of 21 days in vitro. To test the bioactivity of IGF-1-releasing scaffolds, the myotube formation capacity of murine myoblasts was quantified. On IGF-1-releasing scaffolds seeded with myoblasts, the resulting myotubes formed were 1.5-fold longer in length and contained 2-fold greater nuclei per myotube, when compared to scaffolds without IGF-1. When implanted into the ablated murine tibialis anterior muscle, the IGF-1-laden scaffolds, in conjunction with voluntary wheel running, significantly increased the density of perfused microvessels by greater than 3-fold, in comparison to treatment with scaffolds without IGF-1. Enhanced myogenesis was also observed in animals treated with the IGF-1-laden scaffolds combined with exercise, compared to control scaffolds transplanted into mice that did not receive exercise. Furthermore, the abundance of mature neuromuscular junctions was greater by approximately 2-fold in muscles treated with IGF-1-laden scaffolds, when paired with exercise, in comparison to the same treatment without exercise. These findings demonstrate that voluntary exercise improves the regenerative effect of growth factor-laden scaffolds by augmenting neurovascular regeneration, and have important translational implications in the design of off-the-shelf therapeutics for the treatment of traumatic muscle injury.