The addition of zinc ions to polymer-ceramic composites accelerated osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stromal cells

Biomaterials Advances 2023 Volume 149, Article 213391

Critical-sized bone defects, caused by congenital disorders or trauma, are defects that will not heal spontaneously and require surgical intervention. Recent advances in biomaterial design for the treatment of such defects focus on improving their osteoinductive properties. Here, we propose a bioactive composite with high ceramic content composed of poly(ethyleneoxide terephthalate)/poly(butylene terephthalate) (1000PEOT70PBT30, PolyActive, PA) and 50 % beta-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP) with the addition of zinc in a form of a coating on the TCP particles. Due to its essential role in bone homeostasis, we hypothesised that the addition of zinc to the polymer-ceramic composite will further enhance its osteogenic properties. β-TCP particles were immersed in a zinc solution with a concentration of 15 or 45 mM. The addition of zinc did not alter the β-TCP composition or the release of calcium or phosphate ions. 3D porous 1000PEOT70PBT30 – β-TCP scaffolds were additively manufactured by “3D fibre deposition” and their ability to support the osteogenic differentiation was assessed by culturing clinically relevant human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSCs) on the scaffolds for 3, 7, 14 and 28 days. The expression of osteogenic gene markers was increased in the presence of both zinc concentrations. Remarkably, upregulation of osteocalcin (OCN), a late osteogenic marker, was observed after three days of culture. Furthermore, enhanced extracellular matrix (ECM) production and mineralization was observed. These findings support the existing evidence on the osteogenic properties of zinc and further demonstrate that the incorporation of zinc into a polymer-ceramic composite could be a promising strategy in the field of regeneration of critical-sized bone defects.