Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Gary Bowlin


The field of tissue engineering aims to develop viable substitutes with the ability to repair and regenerate the functions of damaged tissue. Common practices to supplement bone regeneration in larger defects include bone graft biomaterials such as autografts, allografts, xenografts, and synthetic biomaterials. Autologous bone grafting is the current gold-standard procedure used to replace missing or damaged bone. However, these grafts have disadvantages such as donor site morbidity, limited availability, and the need for a secondary surgery. The focus of this study is to tissue engineer a lyophilized gelatin composite sponge composed of hydroxyapatite (HA), chitin whiskers (CW), and preparations rich in growth factors (PRGF) to provide sufficient structural support to the defect site while enhancing the body’s own reparative capacity, ultimately eliminating the need for autologous tissue harvesting or repeat operations. The present study investigates several in vitro evaluations on multiple compositions of modified gelatin sponge scaffolds for use in bone graft applications. Gelatin sponges were fabricated via freeze-drying, enhanced with PRGF, HA, and/or CW, and cross-linked with 50 mM 1-Ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl)carbodiimide hydrochloride (EDC) either during or post gelation. Initial evaluation of all scaffold combinations indicated that scaffolds released contents up to 90 days, EDC cross-linking during gelation allowed for more protein release, and had the ability to swell. Since the incorporation of PRGF, HA, and CW increased cell infiltration, and production of cell-created mineral matrix over 90 days in culture, these scaffolds were further characterized. Freeze-dried gelatin sponges enhanced with PRGF, HA, and CW and cross-linked during gelation with EDC (PHCE) were mineralized (M) in 5x revised simulated body fluid (r-SBF) for 1 hour to create a bone-like mineral surface. Gelatin EDC scaffold controls (GE), GE-M, PHCE, and PHCE-M scaffolds were characterized for their ability to swell, mineralizing potential, surface morphology, growth factor incorporation and release, uniaxial compression properties, and cell attachment, proliferation, infiltration, and protein/cytokine secretion.. After mineralization, scanning electron microscopy showed sparse clusters of mineral deposition for GE-M scaffolds while PHCE-M scaffolds exhibited a more uniform mineral deposition. Both GE and PHCE scaffolds were porous structures that swelled up to 50% of their original volume upon hydration. Over 21 days incubation, PHCE-M scaffolds cumulatively released about 30% of their original protein content, significantly more than all other scaffolds. Multiplex Luminex assays confirmed the successful incorporation of PRGF growth factors within PRGF sponges. For acellular uniaxial compression testing, PHCE-M scaffolds reported lower Young’s modulus values (1.3 - 1.6 MPa) when compared to GE and GE-M scaffolds (1.6 – 3.2 MPa). These low modulus values were comparable to values of tissue found in early stages of bone healing. DAPI (4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole) staining and imaging showed an increase in initial cell attachment and infiltration of PHCE and PHCE-M scaffolds on day 1. GE-M scaffolds also appeared to attach more cells than the GE control. MTS cell proliferation assay results indicated that on days 4 and 7, PHCE scaffolds increased cell proliferation (compared to GE controls). MTS also illustrated that the addition of a mineral coating increases and decreases cell proliferation on GE-M and PHCE-M scaffolds, respectively. Multiplexer analysis of MG-63 protein/cytokine secretion suggests that cells are responding in a bone regenerative fashion on all scaffolds, as evidence of osteocalcin secretion. Little to no secretion of osteopontin, IL-1β, and TNF-α demonstrates that scaffolds are not influencing cells to secrete factors associated with bone resorption. The compressive mechanical properties of cellularized scaffolds did not differ much from acellular scaffolds. The collective results indicated increased cellular attachment, infiltration, and bone regenerative protein/cytokine secretion by cells on GE-M scaffolds, which support the addition of a bone-like mineral surface on GE scaffolds. Cellularized PHCE and PHCE-M scaffolds report similar advantages as well as Young’s modulus values in the range of native tissues present in the early stages of bone healing. The results of this study propose that the developed PHCE and PHCE-M scaffolds exhibit good cellular responses and mechanical properties for use in early bone healing applications.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013