Defects in the annulus fibrosus (AF) of intervertebral discs allow nucleus pulposus tissue to herniate causing painful disability. Microdiscectomy procedures remove herniated tissue fragments, but unrepaired defects remain allowing reherniation or progressive degeneration. Cell therapies show promise to enhance repair, but methods are undeveloped and carriers are required to prevent cell leakage. To address this challenge, this study developed and evaluated genipin-crosslinked fibrin (FibGen) as an adhesive cell carrier optimized for AF repair that can deliver cells, match AF material properties, and have low risk of extrusion during loading. Part 1 determined that feasibility of bovine AF cells encapsulated in high concentration FibGen (F140G6: 140 mg/mL fibrinogen; 6 mg/mL genipin) for 7 weeks could maintain high viability, but had little proliferation or matrix deposition. Part 2 screened tissue mechanics and in situ failure testing of nine FibGen formulations (fibrin: 35-140 mg/mL; genipin: 1-6 mg/mL). F140G6 formulation matched AF shear and compressive properties and significantly improved failure strength in situ. Formulations with reduced genipin also exhibited satisfactory material properties and failure behaviors warranting further biological screening. Part 3 screened AF cells encapsulated in four FibGen formulations for 1 week and found that reduced genipin concentrations increased cell viability and glycosaminoglycan production. F70G1 (70 mg/mL fibrinogen; 1 mg/mL genipin) demonstrated balanced biological and biomechanical performance warranting further testing. We conclude that FibGen has potential to serve as an adhesive cell carrier to repair AF defects with formulations that can be tuned to enhance biomechanical and biological performance; future studies are required to develop strategies to enhance matrix production.
- adhesive biomaterial
- annulus fibrosus repair
- intervertebral disc herniation
- tissue engineering