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Primary Human Osteoblasts Cultured in a 3D Microenvironment Create a Unique Representative Model of Their Differentiation Into Osteocytes

  • Nasello, Gabriele; 128401;
  • Alaman-Diez, Pilar;
  • Schiavi, Jessica;
  • Perez, Maria Angeles;
  • McNamara, Laoise;
  • Garcia-Aznar, Jose Manuel;
Publication Date
Apr 24, 2020
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Microengineered systems provide an in vitro strategy to explore the variability of individual patient response to tissue engineering products, since they prefer the use of primary cell sources representing the phenotype variability. Traditional in vitro systems already showed that primary human osteoblasts embedded in a 3D fibrous collagen matrix differentiate into osteocytes under specific conditions. Here, we hypothesized that translating this environment to the organ-on-a-chip scale creates a minimal functional unit to recapitulate osteoblast maturation toward osteocytes and matrix mineralization. Primary human osteoblasts were seeded in a type I collagen hydrogel, to establish the role of lower (2.5 × 105 cells/ml) and higher (1 × 106 cells/ml) cell density on their differentiation into osteocytes. A custom semi-automatic image analysis software was used to extract quantitative data on cellular morphology from brightfield images. The results are showing that cells cultured at a high density increase dendrite length over time, stop proliferating, exhibit dendritic morphology, upregulate alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, and express the osteocyte marker dental matrix protein 1 (DMP1). On the contrary, cells cultured at lower density proliferate over time, do not upregulate ALP and express the osteoblast marker bone sialoprotein 2 (BSP2) at all timepoints. Our work reveals that microengineered systems create unique conditions to capture the major aspects of osteoblast differentiation into osteocytes with a limited number of cells. We propose that the microengineered approach is a functional strategy to create a patient-specific bone tissue model and investigate the individual osteogenic potential of the patient bone cells. / status: published

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