Cellular response to cyclic compression of tissue engineered intervertebral disk constructs composed of electrospun polycaprolactone

There is lack of investigation capturing the complex mechanical interaction of tissue engineered IVD (intervertebral disc) constructs in physiologically-relevant environmental conditions. In this study, mechanical characterisation of anisotropic eletrospinning (ES) substrates made of polycaprolactone (PCL) was carried out in wet and dry conditions and viability of human bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) seeded within double layers of ES PCL was also studied. Cyclic compression of IVD-like constructs composed of an agarose core confined by ES PCL double-layers was implemented using a bioreactor and the cellular response to the mechanical stimulation was evaluated. Tensile tests showed decrease of elastic modulus of ES PCL as the angle of stretching increased and at 60° stretching angle in wet, maximum ultimate tensile strength was observed. Based on the configuration of IVD-like constructs, the calculated circumferential stress experienced by the ES PCL double layers was 40 times of the vertical compressive stress. Confined compression of IVD-like constructs at 5% and 10% displacement dramatically reduced cell viability, particularly at 10%, although cell presence in small and isolated area can still be observed after mechanical conditioning. Hence, material mechanical properties of tissue-engineered scaffolds, composed of fibril structure of polymer with low melting point, are affected by the testing condition. Circumferential stress induced by axial compressive stimulation, conveyed to the ES PCL double-layer wrapped around an agarose core, can affect the viability of cells seeded at the interface, depending on the mechanical configuration and magnitude of the load.