Our group has shown that numerous factors can influence how tissue engineered tendon constructs respond to in vitro mechanical stimulation. Although one study showed that stimulating mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)–collagen sponge constructs significantly increased construct linear stiffness and repair biomechanics, a second study showed no such effect when a collagen gel replaced the sponge. While these results suggest that scaffold material impacts the response of MSCs to mechanical stimulation, a well-designed intra-animal study was needed to directly compare the effects of type-I collagen gel versus type-I collagen sponge in regulating MSC response to a mechanical stimulus. Eight constructs from each cell line (n=8 cell lines) were created in specially designed silicone dishes. Four constructs were created by seeding MSCs on a type-I bovine collagen sponge, and the other four were formed by seeding MSCs in a purified bovine collagen gel. In each dish, two cell-sponge and two cell-gel constructs from each line were then mechanically stimulated once every 5min to a peak strain of 2.4%, for 8hday for 2 weeks. The other dish remained in an incubator without stimulation for 2 weeks. After 14 days, all constructs were failed to determine mechanical properties. Mechanical stimulation significantly improved the linear stiffness (0.048±0.009 versus 0.015±0.004; mean±SEM (standard error of the mean ) N/mm) and linear modulus (0.016±0.004 versus 0.005±0.001; mean±SEM MPa) of cell-sponge constructs. However, the same stimulus produced no such improvement in cell-gel construct properties. These results confirm that collagen sponge rather than collagen gel facilitates how cells respond to a mechanical stimulus and may be the scaffold of choice in mechanical stimulation studies to produce functional tissue engineered structures.

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