1Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Queen's University, 2Department of Chemical Engineering, Queen's University
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Kaupp, J. A., Weber, J. F., Waldman, S. D. Mechanical Stimulation of Chondrocyte-agarose Hydrogels. J. Vis. Exp. (68), e4229, doi:10.3791/4229 (2012).
Articular cartilage suffers from a limited repair capacity when damaged by mechanical insult or degraded by disease, such as osteoarthritis. To remedy this deficiency, several medical interventions have been developed. One such method is to resurface the damaged area with tissue-engineered cartilage; however, the engineered tissue typically lacks the biochemical properties and durability of native cartilage, questioning its long-term survivability. This limits the application of cartilage tissue engineering to the repair of small focal defects, relying on the surrounding tissue to protect the implanted material. To improve the properties of the developed tissue, mechanical stimulation is a popular method utilized to enhance the synthesis of cartilaginous extracellular matrix as well as the resultant mechanical properties of the engineered tissue. Mechanical stimulation applies forces to the tissue constructs analogous to those experienced in vivo. This is based on the premise that the mechanical environment, in part, regulates the development and maintenance of native tissue1,2. The most commonly applied form of mechanical stimulation in cartilage tissue engineering is dynamic compression at physiologic strains of approximately 5-20% at a frequency of 1 Hz1,3. Several studies have investigated the effects of dynamic compression and have shown it to have a positive effect on chondrocyte metabolism and biosynthesis, ultimately affecting the functional properties of the developed tissue4-8. In this paper, we illustrate the method to mechanically stimulate chondrocyte-agarose hydrogel constructs under dynamic compression and analyze changes in biosynthesis through biochemical and radioisotope assays. This method can also be readily modified to assess any potentially induced changes in cellular response as a result of mechanical stimuli.
1. Isolation of Primary Articular Chondrocytes
Harvest 10-15 full thickness cartilage slices from the articular surfaces of animal joints (e.g. the metacarpal-phalangeal joint of skeletally mature cows obtained from a local abbatoir).
2. Chondrocyte-agarose Hydrogel Encapsulation
3. Mechanical Stimulation and Radiolabelling of Chondrocyte-agarose Hydrogels
Note: The purchase and disposal of radioactive materials (waste isotopes and items that may have come into contact radioactive materials) must follow the relevant institutional (and/or governmental) policies and procedures for the safe handling and disposal of radioactive substances.
4. Representative Results
Bovine articular chondrocyte-agarose hydrogels constructs (2% agarose with 10 x 106 cells/ml encapsulated cells) were mechanically stimulated at an amplitude of 10% compressive strain at a frequency of 1 Hz for 20 to 60 min (or 1,200 to 3,600 cycles) and assayed for DNA content and extracellular matrix synthesis by radioisotope incorporation. DNA and extracellular matrix synthesis was affected in a dose-dependent manner. DNA content exhibited a significant 35% decrease as a result of 20 or 30 min of stimulation (p<0.01), whereas 60 min of stimulation exhibited no effect (Figure 2). Cartilage-specific collagen and proteoglycan synthesis (determined by [3H]-proline and [35S]-sulfur incorporation, respectively) exhibited significant increases of approximately 60% in response to 20 or 30 min of stimulation (p<0.01), with 60 min of stimulation exhibiting no observable effect (Figure 3).
Figure 1. Schematic of the custom-built dynamic compression rig for stimulating chondrocyte-agarose constructs. Left: Assembled rig. Right: Exploded view showing individual components.
Figure 2. Changes in DNA content of chondrocyte-agarose hydrogels mechanically stimulated under a 10% compressive strain amplitude at 1 Hz for 20 to 60 min (mean ± SEM, n=6/group).
Figure 3. Changes in extracellular matrix synthesis (collagen and proteoglycans) of chondrocyte-agarose hydrogels mechanically stimulated under 10% compressive strain amplitude at 1 Hz for 20 to 60 min (mean ± SEM, n=6/group).
The described method for applying controlled mechanical stimuli to cell-seeded agarose hydrogels allows for the direct investigation into the effects of dynamic compressive forces on chondrocyte metabolism. The use of the custom-testing rig in conjunction with the retaining rings provided lateral constraint for the constructs to avoid potential problems of sample tipping. The use of dead-weighted loading platens secured by sets crews ensures direct contact with constructs despite potential differences in sample height. Radiolabeling post-stimulation to measure cellular biosynthesis reduces the potential for contamination, allowing for a single testing rig to be utilized for multiple applications of dynamic mechanical stimuli. This method can be easily adapted to investigate the effect of different mechanical loading modes (e.g. shear1,4, tension1,2) or to elucidate specific mechanotransduction pathways responsible.
The representative results illustrated that a small amount of cell death of approximately 35% can occur due to the application of dynamic stimulation, with longer applications of mechanical stimulation not affecting construct cellularity15-17. Biosynthesis of extracellular matrix macromolecules, determined by radioisotope incorporation, illustrated a duration dependent response to dynamic compression. Applications of dynamic compressive loading for a period of 20 to 30 min resulted in a maximal anabolic response with longer durations appearing to elicit a desensitization effect to the imposed mechanical stimuli. Cellular desensitization to mechanical loading has been noted previously1,2,5,13, but there has been little investigation into characterization of the time dependent nature of this phenomena. This information can be used to determine the optimal stimulation conditions to maximize the accumulation of extracellular matrix with the construct under repeated, or long-term, applications of mechanical stimulation.
No conflicts of interest declared.
|Ham’s F-12||Thermo Fisher Scientific||SH3001002|
|Collagenase A||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||C0130|
|Protease||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||P5147|
|Fetal Bovine Serum||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||F1051|
|Ascorbate||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||A4034|
|Antibiotics/antimycotics||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||A5955|
|HEPES||Bioshop Canada Ltd.||HEP001|
|Trypan blue||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||93595|
|Reichert Bright-Line Hemacytometer||Hausser Scientific||1490|
|Papain from papaya latex||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||P3125|
|Ammonium Acetate||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||A1542|
|Ethyldiaminetetraacetic Acid||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||E9884|
|DL-Dithiothreitol||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||43819|
|Low Melting Point Agarose, Type VII||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||A9045|
|Mesh Screen (200) Filter||Sigma Aldrich Ltd.||S4145|
|Mach-1 Micromechanical Tester||Biomomentum Inc.||V500cs|
|Compression Loading Jig||Custom-built||Similar product could be supplied by Biomomentum Inc.|
|Falcon 24 Well Culture Plate||Thermo Fisher Scientific||B353047|
|β-Liquid Scintillation Counter||Beckman Coulter||LS6500|