The rationale for the proposed research is based on the need for minimally invasive strategies to provide functional and aesthetic reconstruction in complex craniofacial defects caused by trauma and disease. The objective of this research is to develop an injectable, in situ forming hydrogel that utilizes a unique dual gelation mechanism to rapidly form gels at physiological temperature, chemically crosslink to maintain hydrogel stability, and biodegrade for full tissue regeneration. The proposed research will test the fundamental hypothesis that the injectable hydrogel will provide a supportive and mineralized substrate for mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) proliferation, enable osteogenic differentiation in vitro, and promote bone regeneration in vivo. The proposed research will be accomplished through three specific aims: 1) To develop and characterize injectable, in situ forming, biodegradable and space-filling hydrogels as an acellular tissue engineering therapeutic;2) To assess the effectiveness of the injectable, dual-gelling hydrogels to promote the proliferation and osteogenic differentiation of encapsulated MSCs in vitro and bone regeneration in vivo;and 3) To evaluate the effects of cell seeding density and predifferentiation stage on the regenerative capacity of injectable, dual-gelling hydrogels in vivo. The novel macromers with crosslinkable and degradable functional groups will be synthesized and characterized using 1HNMR spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, and rheometry. Cytocompatibility, encapsulated MSC viability and in vitro osteogenic differentiation will be measured via real-time PCR for osteogenic marker gene expression and essential biochemical assays for cell proliferation, mineralized extracellular matrix production and alkaline phosphatase activity. In order to evaluate the capacity of the hydrogels to promote bone regeneration, histological and histomorphometric scoring, microcomputed tomography analysis and mechanical testing will be used to quantify the tissue response and characterize functional bone formation. At the completion of these studies, the expected outcomes are successful fabrication of an in situ forming, injectable hydrogel capable of biodegradation, biomineralization, and stem cell delivery and the extensive evaluation of the system's efficacy for bone regeneration. The proposed work will not only improve the understanding and testing of biomaterials-based therapies for minimally invasive tissue regeneration as viable clinical alternatives, but provide new insights in the rational design of thermosensitive materials and hydrogel biomineralization. Moreover, the proposed system provides a novel platform for composite tissue regeneration and controlled delivery for application in a variety of different tissues.

Public Health Relevance

Full healing of large, complex craniofacial defects is presently limited by the ability of current treatments to adequately provide functional and aesthetic bony reconstruction without invasive surgeries and associated complications. With this fellowship, the proposed research will develop and characterize an injectable, biodegradable, dual-gelling hydrogel capable of stem delivery for bone regeneration in large, irregular-shaped defects. This research will contribute important knowledge and techniques in the development and translation of synthetic bone graft substitutes as viable and minimally invasive alternatives for craniofacial tissue engineering.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
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NIDCR Special Grants Review Committee (DSR)
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Frieden, Leslie A
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Rice University
Biomedical Engineering
Schools of Engineering
United States
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Trachtenberg, Jordan E; Vo, Tiffany N; Mikos, Antonios G (2015) Pre-clinical characterization of tissue engineering constructs for bone and cartilage regeneration. Ann Biomed Eng 43:681-96
Vo, Tiffany N; Ekenseair, Adam K; Kasper, F Kurtis et al. (2014) Synthesis, physicochemical characterization, and cytocompatibility of bioresorbable, dual-gelling injectable hydrogels. Biomacromolecules 15:132-42