Osteochondral injuries remain difficult to repair. We developed a novel photo-cross-linkable furfurylamine-conjugated gelatin (gelatin-FA). Gelatin-FA was rapidly cross-linked by visible light with Rose Bengal, a light sensitizer, and was kept gelled for 3 weeks submerged in saline at 37°C. When bone marrow-derived stromal cells (BMSCs) were suspended in gelatin-FA with 0.05% Rose Bengal, approximately 87% of the cells were viable in the hydrogel at 24 h after photo-cross-linking, and the chondrogenic differentiation of BMSCs was maintained for up to 3 weeks. BMP4 fusion protein with a collagen binding domain (CBD) was retained in the hydrogels at higher levels than unmodified BMP4. Gelatin-FA was subsequently employed as a scaffold for BMSCs and CBD-BMP4 in a rabbit osteochondral defect model. In both cases, the defect was repaired with articular cartilage-like tissue and regenerated subchondral bone. This novel, photo-cross-linkable gelatin appears to be a promising scaffold for the treatment of osteochondral injury.
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