Physiologic load-bearing characteristics of autografts, allografts, and polymer-based scaffolds in a critical sized segmental defect of long bone: an experimental study

To address the challenge of treating critical sized intercalary defects, we hypothesized that under physiologic cyclic loading, autografts, allografts, and scaffolds loaded with and without human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) would have different biomechanical characteristics.

Using a rat femoral defect model, 46 rats were assigned to four groups, ie, autograft (n = 12), allograft (n = 10), scaffold (n = 13), and scaffold with hMSCs (n = 11). The scaffold groups used a 5 mm segment of scaffold composed of 80% poly-ε-caprolactone and 20% hydroxyapatite. Rats were sacrificed 4 months postoperatively, and the repairs were assessed radiographically and biomechanically.

Autograft and allograft groups exhibited the most bridging callus, while the scaffold/hMSCs group had more callus than the scaffold repairs. Although signs of radiographic healing did not accurately reflect restoration of mechanical properties, addition of hMSCs on the scaffold enhanced bone formation. The scaffold alone group had significantly lower elastic and viscous stiffness and higher phase angles than other repairs and the contralateral controls. Addition of hMSCs increased the elastic and viscous stiffness of the repair, while decreasing the phase angle.

Further comparative analysis is needed to optimize clinical use of scaffolds and hMSCs for critical sized defect repairs. However, our results suggest that addition of hMSCs to scaffolds enhances mechanical simulation of native host bone.