Gene activated scaffolds incorporating star-shaped polypeptide-pDNA nanomedicines accelerate bone tissue regeneration in vivo†
Increasingly, tissue engineering strategies such as the use of biomaterial scaffolds augmented with specific biological cues are being investigated to accelerate the regenerative process. For example, significant clinical challenges still exist in efficiently healing large bone defects which are above a critical size. Herein, we describe a cell-free, biocompatible and bioresorbable scaffold incorporating a novel star-polypeptide biomaterial as a gene vector. This gene-loaded scaffold can accelerate bone tissue repair in vivo in comparison to a scaffold alone at just four weeks post implantation in a critical sized bone defect. This is achieved via the in situ transfection of autologous host cells which migrate into the implanted collagen-based scaffold via gene-loaded, star-shaped poly(L-lysine) polypeptides (star-PLLs). In vitro, we demonstrate that star-PLL nanomaterials designed with 64 short poly(L-lysine) arms can be used to functionalise a range of collagen based scaffolds with a dual therapeutic cargo (pDual) of the bone-morphogenetic protein-2 plasmid (pBMP-2) and vascular endothelial growth factor plasmid (pVEGF). The versatility of this polymeric vector is highlighted in its ability to transfect Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) with both osteogenic and angiogenic transgenes in a 3D environment from a range of scaffolds with various macromolecular compositions. In vivo, we demonstrate that a bone-mimetic, collagen-hydroxyapatite scaffold functionalized with star-PLLs containing either 32- or 64- poly(L-lysine) arms can be used to successfully deliver this pDual cargo to autologous host cells. At the very early timepoint of just 4 weeks, we demonstrate the 64-star-PLL-pDual functionalised scaffold as a particularly efficient platform to accelerate bone tissue regeneration, with a 6-fold increase in new bone formation compared to a scaffold alone. Overall, this article describes for the first time the incorporation of novel star-polypeptide biomaterials carrying two therapeutic genes into a cell free scaffold which supports accelerated bone tissue formation in vivo.