Cellular and Biomaterial Engineering for Orthopaedic Regenerative Medicine
The ends of long bones that articulate with respect to one another are lined with a crucial connective tissue called articular cartilage. This tissue plays an essential biomechanical function in synovial joints, as it serves to both dissipate load and lubricate articulating surfaces. Osteoarthritis is a painful and debilitating disease that drives the deterioration of articular cartilage. Like many chronic diseases, pro-inflammatory cytokines feature prominently in the onset and progression of osteoarthritis. Because cartilage lacks physiologic features critical for regeneration and self-repair, the development of effective strategies to create functional cartilage tissue substitutes remains a priority for the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The overall objectives of this dissertation are to (1) develop a bioactive scaffold capable of mediating cell differentiation and formation of extracellular matrix that recapitulates native cartilage tissue and (2) to produce stem cells specifically tailored at the scale of the genome with the ability to resist inflammatory cues that normally lead to degeneration and pain.
Engineered replacements for musculoskeletal tissues generally require extensive ex vivo manipulation of stem cells to achieve controlled differentiation and phenotypic stability. By immobilizing lentivirus driving the expression of transforming growth factor-β3 to a highly structured, three dimensionally woven tissue engineering scaffold, we developed a technique for producing cell-instructive scaffolds that control human mesenchymal stem cell differentiation and possess biomechanical properties approximating those of native tissues. This work represents an important advance, as it establishes a method for generating constructs capable of restoring biological and mechanical function that may circumvent the need for ex vivo conditioning of engineered tissue substitutes.
Any functional cartilage tissue substitute must tolerate the inflammation intrinsic to an arthritic joint. Recently emerging tools from synthetic biology and genome engineering facilitate an unprecedented ability to modify how cells respond to their microenvironments. We exploited these developments to engineer cells that can evade signaling of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1). Our study provides proof-of-principle evidence that cartilage derived from such engineered stem cells are resistant to IL-1-mediated degradation.
Extending on this work, we developed a synthetic biology strategy to further customize stem cells to combat inflammatory cues. We commandeered the highly responsive endogenous locus of the chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 gene in pluripotent stem cells to impart self-regulated, feedback-controlled production of biologic therapy. We demonstrated that repurposing of degradative signaling pathways induced by IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor toward transient production of cytokine antagonists enabled engineered cartilage tissue to withstand the action of inflammatory cytokines and to serve as a cell-based, auto-regulated drug delivery system.
In this work, we combine principles from synthetic biology, gene therapy, and functional tissue engineering to develop methods for generating constructs with biomimetic molecular and mechanical features of articular cartilage while precisely defining how cells respond to dysfunction in the body’s finely-tuned inflammatory systems. Moreover, our strategy for customizing intrinsic cellular signaling pathways in therapeutic stem cell populations opens innovative possibilities for controlled drug delivery to native tissues, which may provide safer and more effective treatments applicable to a wide variety of chronic diseases and may transform the landscape of regenerative medicine.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: Duke Dissertations