Building osteogenic microenvironments with a double-network composite hydrogel for bone repair

Li, Jiaying and Ma, Jinjin and Feng, Qian and Xie, En and Meng, Qingchen and Shu, Wenmiao and Wu, Junxi and Bian, Liming and Han, Fengxuan and Li, Bin (2023) Building osteogenic microenvironments with a double-network composite hydrogel for bone repair. Research, 6. 0021. ISSN 2639-5274 (

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The critical factor determining the in vivo effect of bone repair materials is the microenvironment, which greatly depends on their abilities to promote vascularization and bone formation. However, implant materials are far from ideal candidates for guiding bone regeneration due to their deficient angiogenic and osteogenic microenvironments. Herein, a double-network composite hydrogel combining vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-mimetic peptide with hydroxyapatite (HA) precursor was developed to build an osteogenic microenvironment for bone repair. The hydrogel was prepared by mixing acrylated β-cyclodextrins and octacalcium phosphate (OCP), an HA precursor, with gelatin solution, followed by ultraviolet photo-crosslinking. To improve the angiogenic potential of the hydrogel, QK, a VEGF-mimicking peptide, was loaded in acrylated β-cyclodextrins. The QK-loaded hydrogel promoted tube formation of human umbilical vein endothelial cells and upregulated the expression of angiogenesis-related genes, such as Flt1 , Kdr , and VEGF , in bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. Moreover, QK could recruit bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells. Furthermore, OCP in the composite hydrogel could be transformed into HA and release calcium ions facilitating bone regeneration. The double-network composite hydrogel integrated QK and OCP showed obvious osteoinductive activity. The results of animal experiments showed that the composite hydrogel enhanced bone regeneration in skull defects of rats, due to perfect synergistic effects of QK and OCP on vascularized bone regeneration. In summary, improving the angiogenic and osteogenic microenvironments by our double-network composite hydrogel shows promising prospects for bone repair.