Design of an in Vitro Model of Cell Recruitment for Skeletal Muscle Regeneration Using Hepatocyte Growth Factor-Loaded Fibrin Microthreads

Jonathan M. Grasman, Raymond L. Page, George D. Pins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Large skeletal muscle defects that result in volumetric muscle loss (VML) result in the destruction of the basal lamina, which removes key signaling molecules such as hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) from the wound site, eliminating the endogenous capacity of these injuries to regenerate. We recently showed that HGF-loaded fibrin microthreads increased the force production in muscle tissues after 60 days in a mouse VML model. In this study, we created an in vitro, three-dimensional (3D) microscale outgrowth assay system designed to mimic cell recruitment in vivo, and investigated the effect of HGF-loaded, cross-linked fibrin microthreads on myoblast recruitment to predict the results observed in vivo. This outgrowth assay discretely separated the cellular and molecular functions (migration, proliferation, and chemotaxis) that direct outgrowth from the wound margin, creating a powerful platform to model cell recruitment in axially aligned tissues, such as skeletal muscle. The degree of cross-linking was controlled by pH and microthreads cross-linked using physiologically neutral pH (EDCn) facilitated the release of active HGF; increasing the two-dimensional migration and 3D outgrowth of myoblasts twofold. While HGF adsorbed to uncross-linked microthreads, it did not enhance myoblast migration, possibly due to the low concentrations that were adsorbed. Regardless of the amount of HGF adsorbed on the microthreads, myoblast proliferation increased significantly on stiffer, cross-linked microthreads. Together, the results of these studies show that HGF loaded onto EDCn microthreads supported enhanced myoblast migration and recruitment and suggest that our novel outgrowth assay system is a robust in vitro screening tool that predicts the performance of fibrin microthreads in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-783
Number of pages11
JournalTissue Engineering - Part A
Issue number15-16
StatePublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


  • 3D in vitro model system
  • Biomaterials
  • Cell migration
  • Fibrin microthreads
  • Hepatocyte growth factor
  • Skeletal muscle regeneration
  • Tissue engineering


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