3D micropatternable hydrogel systems to examine crosstalk effects between mesenchymal stem cells, osteoblasts, and adipocytes
Hammoudi, Taymour Marwan
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Poor skeletal health results from aging and metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes and involves impaired homeostatic balance between marrow osteogenesis and adipogenesis. Tissue engineering provides researchers with the ability to generate improved, highly controlled and tailorable in vitro model systems to better understand mechanisms of homeostasis, disease, and healing and regeneration. Model systems that allow assembly of modules of MSCs, osteoblasts, and adipocytes in a number of configurations to engage in signaling crosstalk offer the potential to study integrative physiological aspects and complex interactions in the face of changes in local and systemic microenvironments. Thus, the overall goal of this dissertation was to examine integrative physiological aspects between MSCs, osteoblasts, and adipocytes that exist within the marrow microenvironment. To investigate the effects of intercellular signaling in different microenvironmental contexts, methods were developed to photolithographically pattern and assemble cell-laden PEG-based hydrogels with high spatial fidelity and tissue-scale thickness for long-term 3D co-culture of multiple cell types. This platform was applied to study effects of crosstalk between MSCs, osteoblasts and adipocytes on markers of differentiation in each cell type. Additionally, responses of MSCs to systemic perturbations in glucose concentration were modulated by mono-, co-, and tri-culture with these cell types in a model of diabetes-induced skeletal disease. Together, these studies provided valuable insight into unique and differential effects of intercellular signaling within the niche environment of MSCs and their terminally differentiated progeny during homeostatic and pathological states, and offer opportunities further study of integrative physiological interactions between mesenchymal lineage cells.