In vitro characterization of self-assembled anterior cruciate ligament cell spheroids for ligament tissue engineering


Tissue engineering of an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) implant with functional enthesis requires site-directed seeding of different cell types on the same scaffold. Therefore, we studied the suitability of self-assembled three-dimensional spheroids generated by lapine ACL ligament fibroblasts for directed scaffold colonization. The spheroids were characterized in vitro during 14 days in static and 7 days in dynamic culture. Size maintenance of self-assembled spheroids, the vitality, the morphology and the expression pattern of the cells were monitored. Additionally, we analyzed the total sulfated glycosaminoglycan, collagen contents and the expression of the ligament components type I collagen, decorin and tenascin C on protein and for COL1A1, DCN and TNMD on gene level in the spheroids. Subsequently, the cell colonization of polylactide-co-caprolactone [P(LA-CL)] and polydioxanone (PDS) polymer scaffolds was assessed in response to a directed, spheroid-based seeding technique. ACL cells were able to self-assemble spheroids and survive over 14 days. The spheroids decreased in size but not in cellularity depending on the culture time and maintained or even increased their differentiation state. The area of P[LA-CL] scaffolds, colonized after 14 days by the cells of one spheroid, was in average 4.57 ± 2.3 mm(2). Scaffolds consisting of the polymer P[LA-CL] were more suitable for colonization by spheroids than PDS embroideries. We conclude that ACL cell spheroids are suitable as site-directed seeding strategy for scaffolds in ACL tissue engineering approaches and recommend the use of freshly assembled spheroids for scaffold colonization, due to their balanced proliferation and differentiation.