Dr Marta Roldo – University of Portsmouth
Dr Jonathan Dawson – University of Southampton
Dr Gianluca Tozzi – University of Portsmouth
Prof Richard Oreffo – University of Southampton
Osteochondral lesions span both bone and cartilage tissues, they are painful, and predispose to osteoarthritis (OA), unquestionably one of the most important chronic health issues in humans.
Severe limitations of current treatments have inspired research into more effective tissue engineering strategies, where the implanted stem cells must be able to differentiate both into cartilage and bone cells. The differentiation of cells can be tuned by varying the mechanical properties within the implant; however, there are no current scaffold materials that allow this concurrent double differentiation. We therefore propose to combine nanocomposite material engineering with 3D bioprinting to manufacture complex structures of polymer-clay nanocomposites of selected stiffness and porosity (Fig. 1). These will be used to study how architectural and mechanical properties (Fig. 2) of the scaffold guide cells differentiation into the two types of cells desired. This study will lead to a deeper understanding of the relationship between scaffold architecture and cells fate allowing us to design novel scaffolds able to induce regeneration of physiologically functional tissues at the cartilage/bone interface. This will be possible through collaboration between Dr Roldo (expert in the synthesis, formulation and characterisation of biocompatible materials), Dr Tozzi (X-ray computed tomography and correlative imaging) at Portsmouth and Dr Jonathan Dawson and Prof Richard Oreffo at Southampton (experts in clay nanocomposites, skeletal stem cell biology and skeletal translational strategies). Scaffolds with a gradient of stiffnesses and different porosities (Fig. 1) will be 3D printed and seeded with stem cells and the differentiation of these cells will be quantified.
We aim to address the following questions: How does the design of a 3D scaffold influence the differentiation of mesenchymal/skeletal stem cells? And can we harness this knowledge to build an effective tissue engineering scaffold for the repair of osteochondral defects across the length scales?