Caiwen Xiao1,5, Huifang Zhou1,5, Guangpeng Liu2, Peng Zhang3, Yao Fu1, Ping Gu1, Hongliang Hou4, Tingting Tang4 and Xianqun Fan
Bone graft substitutes with osteogenic factors alone often exhibit poor bone regeneration due to inadequate vascularization. Combined delivery of osteogenic and angiogenic factors from biodegradable scaffolds may enhance bone regeneration. We evaluated the effects of bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), combined with natural coral scaffolds, on the repair of critical-sized bone defects in rabbit orbits. In vitro expanded rabbit bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) were transfected with human BMP2 and VEGF165 genes. Target protein expression and osteogenic differentiation were confirmed after gene transduction. Rabbit orbital defects were treated with a coral scaffold loaded with BMP2-transduced and VEGF-transduced BMSCs, BMP2-expressing BMSCs, VEGF-expressing BMSCs, or BMSCs without gene transduction. Volume and density of regenerated bone were determined by micro-computed tomography at 4, 8, and 16 weeks after implantation. Neovascularity, new bone deposition rate, and new bone formation were measured by immunostaining, tetracycline and calcein labelling, and histomorphometric analysis at different time points. The results showed that VEGF increased blood vessel formation relative to groups without VEGF. Combined delivery of BMP2 and VEGF increased new bone deposition and formation, compared with any single factor. These findings indicate that mimicking the natural bone development process by combined BMP2 and VEGF delivery improves healing of critical-sized orbital defects in rabbits.