An aging population, decreased activity levels and increased combat injuries, have led to an increase in critical sized bone defects. As more defects are treated using allografts, which is the current standard of care, the deficiencies of allografts are becoming more evident. Allografts lack the angiogenic potential to induce sufficient vasculogenesis to counteract the hypoxic environment associated with critical sized bone defects. In this study, aptamer-functionalized fibrin hydrogels (AFH), engineered to release vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), were evaluated for their material properties, growth factor release kinetics, and angiogenic and osteogenic potential in vivo. Aptamer functionalization to native fibrin did not result in significant changes in biocompatibility or hydrogel gelation. However, aptamer functionalization of fibrin did improve the release kinetics of VEGF from AFH and, when compared to FH, reduced the diffusivity and extended the release of VEGF several days longer. VEGF released from AFH, in vivo, increased vascularization to a greater degree, relative to VEGF released from FH, in a murine critical-sized cranial defect. Defects treated with AFH loaded with VEGF, relative to nonhydrogel loaded controls, showed a nominal increase in osteogenesis. Together, these data suggest that AFH more efficiently incorporates and retains VEGF in vitro and in vivo, which then enhances angiogenesis and osteogenesis to a greater extent in vivo than FH.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering