Controlled Osteogenic Differentiation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells Using Dexamethasone-Loaded Light-Responsive Microgels
journal contributionposted on 02.02.2021, 19:05 by Yingnan Zhang, Changhao Fang, Shuce Zhang, Robert E. Campbell, Michael J. Serpe
Human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs), which have the ability to differentiate into osteoblasts, show promise for bone tissue engineering and bone defect treatment. While there are a number of approaches currently available to accomplish this, e.g., utilizing biodegradable materials loaded with the synthetic glucocorticoid osteogenic inducer dexamethasone (DEX), there are still many disadvantages with the current technologies. Here, we generated light-responsive microgels that we showed are capable of loading and releasing DEX in a light-triggered fashion, with the released DEX being able to induce hMSC differentiation into osteoblasts. Specifically, light-responsive poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-nitrobenzyl methacrylate) (pNIPAm-co-NBMA) microgels were synthesized via free radical precipitation polymerization and their size, morphology, and chemical composition were characterized. We then went on to show that the microgels could be loaded with DEX (via what we think are hydrophobic interactions) and released upon exposure to UV light. We went on to show that the DEX released from the microgels was still capable of inducing osteogenic differentiation of hMSCs using an alamarBlue assay and normalized alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity assay. We also investigated how hMSC differentiation was impacted by intermittent DEX released from UV-exposed microgels. Finally, we confirmed that the microgels themselves were not cytotoxic to hMSCs. Taken together, the DEX-loaded light-responsive microgels reported here may find a use for niche clinical applications, e.g., bone tissue repair.