eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) Not-for-Profit Open Access
Created by Scientists, for Scientists
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2021   Volume No 41 – pages 471-484

Title: Chitosan-based hydrogels supplemented with gelatine and Link N enhance extracellular matrix deposition by encapsulated cells in a degenerative intervertebral disc environment

Authors: A Adoungotchodo, LM Epure, F Mwale, S Lerouge

Address: Laboratory for endovascular biomaterials (LBeV), CHUM research centre (CRCHUM), 900 St Denis St, Montreal, QC H2X 3H8, Canada

E-mail: sophie.lerouge at

Abstract: Injectable therapies for intervertebral disc (IVD) repair are gaining much interest. Recently, a chitosan (CH)-based injectable scaffold has been developed that has similar mechanical properties to human nucleus pulposus (NP) and provides a suitable environment for encapsulated NP cell survival and proteoglycan production. The hypothesis of the study was that the biological response of the encapsulated cells can be further increased by adding gelatine and Link N (LN, a naturally occurring peptide present in cartilage and IVD extracellular matrix), known to increase cell adhesion and proteoglycan production, respectively. The effect of gelatine on the mechanical properties of a CH hydrogel was evaluated through rheological and compressive mechanical tests. Production of proteoglycan [assessed as glycosaminoglycan (GAG)] by encapsulated NP cells was determined in the presence or absence of gelatine in normal or degenerative medium supplemented with LN. Normal and degenerative media replicate the healthy and degenerative disc environment, respectively. Gelatine slightly reduced the gelation rate of CH hydrogel but improved its final mechanical properties in compression. LN had a minimal effect in normal medium but induced significantly more GAG production in degenerative medium (< 0.001, 4.7-fold superior to the control), reaching similar results to transforming growth factor (TGF)-β (used as a positive control). GAG production was further increased in CH-gelatine hydrogels, confirming an additive effect of LN and gelatine in a degenerative environment. The results supported the concept that CH-gelatine hydrogels supplemented with LN can help restore the function of the NP during the early stages of IVD degeneration.

Key Words: Chitosan, intervertebral disc, Link N, gelatine, injectable hydrogel, nucleus pulposus.

Publication date: May 4th 2021

Article download: Pages 471-484 (PDF file)

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