Physiologically low oxygen enhances biomolecule production and stemness of mesenchymal stem cell spheroids

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© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2016. Multicellular human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) spheroids have been demonstrated to be valuable in a variety of applications, including cartilage regeneration, wound healing, and neoangiogenesis. Physiological relevant low oxygen culture can significantly improve in vitro hMSC expansion by preventing cell differentiation. We hypothesize that hypoxia-cultured hMSC spheroids can better maintain the regenerative properties of hMSCs. In this study, hMSC spheroids were fabricated using hanging drop method and cultured under 2% O2 and 20% O2 for up to 96 h. Spheroid diameter and viability were examined, as well as extracellular matrix (ECM) components and growth factor levels between the two oxygen tensions at different time points. Stemness was measured among the spheroid culture conditions and compared to two-dimensional cell cultures. Spheroid viability and structural integrity were studied using different needle gauges to ensure no damage would occur when implemented in vivo. Spheroid attachment and integration within a tissue substitute were also demonstrated. The results showed that a three-dimensional hMSC spheroid cultured at low oxygen conditions can enhance the production of ECM proteins and growth factors, while maintaining the spheroids' stemness and ability to be injected, attached, and potentially be integrated within a tissue.

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Tissue Engineering - Part C: Methods