European Society of Biomechanics S.M. Perren Award 2012: the external mechanical environment can override the influence of local substrate in determining stem cell fate.
2483 - 2492
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The aim of this study was to explore how cell-matrix interactions and extrinsic mechanical signals interact to determine stem cell fate in response to transforming growth factor-β3 (TGF-β3). Bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were seeded in agarose and fibrin hydrogels and subjected to dynamic compression in the presence of different concentrations of TGF-β3. Markers of chondrogenic, myogenic and endochondral differentiation were assessed. MSCs embedded within agarose hydrogels adopted a spherical cell morphology, while cells directly adhered to the fibrin matrix and took on a spread morphology. Free-swelling agarose constructs stained positively for chondrogenic markers, with MSCs appearing to progress towards terminal differentiation as indicated by mineral staining. MSC seeded fibrin constructs progressed along an alternative myogenic pathway in long-term free-swelling culture. Dynamic compression suppressed differentiation towards any investigated lineage in both fibrin and agarose hydrogels in the short-term. Given that fibrin clots have been shown to support a chondrogenic phenotype in vivo within mechanically loaded joint defect environments, we next explored the influence of long term (42 days) dynamic compression on MSC differentiation. Mechanical signals generated by this extrinsic loading ultimately governed MSC fate, directing MSCs along a chondrogenic pathway as opposed to the default myogenic phenotype supported within unloaded fibrin clots. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that external cues such as the mechanical environment can override the influence specific substrates, scaffolds or hydrogels have on determining mesenchymal stem cell fate. The temporal data presented in this study highlights the importance of considering how MSCs respond to extrinsic mechanical signals in the long term.