Runx2-Genetically Engineered Skeletal Myoblasts for Bone Tissue Engineering
Gersbach, Charles Alan
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Bone tissue engineering is a promising approach to address the limitations of currently used bone tissue substitutes. However, an optimal cell source for the production of osteoblastic matrix proteins and mineral deposition has yet to be defined. In response to this deficiency, ex vivo gene therapy of easily accessible non-osteogenic cells, such as skeletal myoblasts, has become a prevalent strategy for inducing an osteoblastic phenotype. The majority of these approaches focus on constitutive overexpression of soluble osteogenic growth factors such as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). In order to avoid aberrant effects of unregulated growth factor secretion, this work focuses on delivery of the osteoblastic transcription factor Runx2 as an autocrine osteogenic signal under the control of an inducible expression system. The overall objective of this research was to engineer an inducible cell source for bone tissue engineering that addresses the limitations of current cell-based approaches to orthopedic regeneration. Our central hypothesis was that inducible Runx2 overexpression in skeletal myoblasts would stimulate differentiation into a regulated osteoblastic phenotype. We have demonstrated that Runx2 overexpression stimulates transdifferentiation of primary skeletal myoblasts into a mineralizing osteoblastic phenotype. Furthermore, we have established Runx2-engineered skeletal myoblasts as a potent cell source for bone tissue engineering applications in vitro and in vivo, similar to BMP-2-overexpressing controls. Finally, we exogenously regulated osteoblastic differentiation by myoblasts engineered to express a tetracycline-inducible Runx2 transgene. This conversion into an osteoblastic phenotype was inducible, repressible, recoverable after suppression, and dose-dependent with tetracycline concentration. This work is significant because it addresses cell sourcing limitations of bone tissue engineering, develops controlled and effective gene therapy methods for orthopedic regeneration, and establishes a novel strategy for regulating the magnitude and kinetics of osteoblastic differentiation.