Background: Collagen-based scaffolds reinforced with hydroxyapatite (HA) are an attractive choice for bone tissue engineering because their composition mimics that of bone. We previously reported the development of compression-molded collagen-HA scaffolds that exhibited high porosity, interconnected pores, and mechanical properties that were well-suited for surgical handling and fixation. The objective of this study was to investigate these novel collagen-HA scaffolds in combination with human adipose-derived stem cells (hASCs) as a template for bone formation in a subcutaneous athymic mouse model. Methods: Collagen-HA scaffolds and collagen-only scaffolds were fabricated as previously described, and a clinically approved bone void filler was used as a control for the material. Constructs were seeded with hASCs and were pre-treated with either control or osteogenic media. A cell-free group was also included. Scaffolds were implanted subcutaneously in the backs of athymic nude mice for 8 weeks. Mineral deposition was quantified via micro-computed tomography. Histological and immunofluorescence images of the explants were used to analyze their vascular invasion, remodeling and cellularity. Results: Cell-free collagen-HA scaffolds and those that were pre-seeded with osteogenically differentiated hASCs supported mineral deposition and vascular invasion at comparable rates, while cell-seeded constructs treated with the control medium showed lower mineralization after implantation. HA-reinforcement allowed collagen constructs to maintain their shape, provided improved cell-tissue-scaffold integration, and resulted in a more organized tissue when pre-treated in an osteogenic medium. Scaffold type and pre-treatment also determined osteoclast activity and therefore potential remodeling of the constructs. Conclusions: The results of this study cumulatively indicate that treatment medium and scaffold composition direct mineralization and angiogenic tissue formation in an ectopic model. The data suggest that it may be necessary to match the scaffold with a particular cell type and cell-specific pre-treatment to achieve optimal bone formation.
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