Research Papers:

In vivo safety and efficacy testing of a thermally triggered injectable hydrogel scaffold for bone regeneration and augmentation in a rat model

Abbey A. Thorpe, Christine Freeman, Paula Farthing, Jill Callaghan, Paul V. Hatton, Ian M. Brook, Chris Sammon _ and Christine Lyn Le Maitre

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Oncotarget. 2018; 9:18277-18295. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.24813

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Abbey A. Thorpe1, Christine Freeman2, Paula Farthing2, Jill Callaghan2, Paul V. Hatton2, Ian M. Brook2, Chris Sammon3 and Christine Lyn Le Maitre1

1Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB, UK

2School of Clinical Dentistry, University of Sheffield, S10 2TA, UK

3Materials and Engineering Research Institute, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB, UK

Correspondence to:

Chris Sammon, email: [email protected]

Keywords: mesenchymal stem cell; hydrogel; injectable; bone regeneration; preclinical studies

Received: November 06, 2017     Accepted: February 27, 2018     Published: April 06, 2018


Bone loss resulting from degenerative diseases and trauma is a significant clinical burden which is likely to grow exponentially with the aging population. In a number of conditions where pre-formed materials are clinically inappropriate an injectable bone forming hydrogel could be beneficial. The development of an injectable hydrogel to stimulate bone repair and regeneration would have broad clinical impact and economic benefit in a variety of orthopedic clinical applications.

We have previously reported the development of a Laponite® crosslinked pNIPAM-co-DMAc (L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc) hydrogel delivery system, loaded with hydroxyapatite nanoparticles (HAPna), which was capable of inducing osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) without the need for additional growth factors in vitro. However to enable progression towards clinical acceptability, biocompatibility and efficacy of the L-pNIPAM-co-DMAc hydrogel to induce bone repair in vivo must be determined.

Biocompatibility was evaluated by subcutaneous implantation for 6 weeks in rats, and efficacy to augment bone repair was evaluated within a rat femur defect model for 4 weeks. No inflammatory reactions, organ toxicity or systemic toxicity were observed. In young male rats where hydrogel was injected, defect healing was less effective than sham operated controls when rat MSCs were incorporated. Enhanced bone healing was observed however, in aged exbreeder female rats where acellular hydrogel was injected, with increased deposition of collagen type I and Runx2. Integration of the hydrogel with surrounding bone was observed without the need for delivered MSCs; native cell infiltration was also seen and bone formation was observed within all hydrogel systems investigated.

This hydrogel can be delivered directly into the target site, is biocompatible, promotes increased bone formation and facilitates migration of cells to promote integration with surrounding bone, for safe and efficacious bone repair.

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