Biomaterial scaffolds with gradients in architecture, mechanical and chemical properties have the potential to improve the osseointegration of ligament grafts by recapitulating phenotypic gradients that exist at the natural ligament-bone (L-B) interface. Towards the larger goal of regenerating the L-B interface, this in vitro study was performed to investigate the potential of two scaffolds with mineral gradients in promoting a spatial gradient of osteoblastic differentiation. Specifically, the first graded scaffold was fabricated by co-electrospinning two polymer solutions (one doped with nano-hydroxyapatite particles) from offset spinnerets, while the second was created by immersing the first scaffold in a 5 × simulated body fluid. Rat bone marrow stromal cells, cultured in the presence of osteogenic supplements, were found to be metabolically active on all regions of both scaffolds after 1 and 7 days of culture. Gene expression of bone morphogenic protein-2 and osteopontin was elevated on mineral-containing regions as compared to regions without mineral, while the expression of alkaline phosphatase mRNA revealed the opposite trend. Finally, the presence of osteopontin and bone sialoprotein confirmed osteoblastic phenotypic maturation by day 28. This study indicates that co-electrospun scaffolds with gradients in mineral content can guide the formation of phenotypic gradients and may thus promote the regeneration of the L-B interface.
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