Reconstructive treatment after trauma and tumor resection would greatly benefit from an effective soft tissue regeneration. The use of cell-free scaffolds for adipose tissue regeneration in vivo is emerging as an attractive alternative to tissue-engineered constructs, since this approach avoids complications due to cell manipulation and lack of synchronous vascularization. In this study, we developed a biodegradable polyurethane-based scaffold for soft tissue regeneration, characterized by an exceptional combination between softness and resilience. Exploring the potential as a cell-free scaffold required profound understanding of the impact of its intrinsic physico-chemical properties on the biological performance in vivo. We investigated the effect of the scaffold's hydrophilic character, degradation kinetics, and internal morphology on (i) the local inflammatory response and activation of MGCs (foreign body response); (ii) its ability to promote rapid vascularisation, cell infiltration and migration through the scaffold over time; and (iii) the grade of maturation of the newly formed tissue into vascularized soft tissue in a murine model. The study revealed that soft tissue regeneration in vivo proceeded by gradual infiltration of undifferentiated mesenchymal cells though the periphery toward the center of the scaffold, where the rapid formation of a functional and well-formed vascular network supported cell viability overtime.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE - Exploring the potential of polyurethane-based soft foam as cell-free scaffold for soft tissue regeneration. In this work, we address the unmet need for synthetic functional soft tissue substitutes that provide adequate biological and mechanical support to soft tissue. We developed a series of flexible cross-linked polyurethane copolymer scaffolds with remarkable fatigue-resistance and tunable physico-chemical properties for soft tissue regeneration in vivo. Accordingly, we could extend the potential of this class of biomaterials, which was so far confined for bone and osteochondral tissue regeneration, to other types of connective tissue.
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