Mechanically resilient injectable scaffolds for intramuscular stem cell delivery and cytokine release
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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd A promising strategy for treating peripheral ischemia involves the delivery of stem cells to promote angiogenesis through paracrine signaling. Treatment success depends on cell localization, retention, and survival within the mechanically dynamic intramuscular (IM) environment. Herein we describe an injectable, in situ-gelling hydrogel for the IM delivery of adipose-derived stem/stromal cells (ASCs), specifically designed to withstand the dynamic loading conditions of the lower limb and facilitate cytokine release from encapsulated cells. Copolymers of poly(trimethylene carbonate)-b-poly(ethylene glycol)-b-poly(trimethylene carbonate) diacrylate were used to modulate the properties of methacrylated glycol chitosan hydrogels crosslinked by thermally-initiated polymerization using ammonium persulfate and N,N,N′,N′-tetramethylethylenediamine. The scaffolds had an ultimate compressive strain over 75% and maintained mechanical properties during compressive fatigue testing at physiological levels. Rapid crosslinking (<3 min) was achieved at low initiator concentration (5 mM). Following injection and crosslinking within the scaffolds, human ASCs demonstrated high viability (>90%) over two weeks in culture under both normoxia and hypoxia. Release of angiogenic and chemotactic cytokines was enhanced from encapsulated cells under sustained hypoxia, in comparison to normoxic and tissue culture polystyrene controls. When delivered by IM injection in a mouse model of hindlimb ischemia, human ASCs were well retained in the scaffold over 28 days and significantly increased the IM vascular density compared to untreated controls.