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Methods for studying MLO-Y4 osteocytes in collagen-hydroxyapatite scaffolds in the rotary cell culture system

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posted on 24.08.2020, 08:45 by Roxanne Fournier, Rene E. Harrison

Purpose: The rotary cell culture system (RCCS) is a common clinorotation device for cell culture. It is also used as a low-shear suspension culture bioreactor to form functionalized 3D tissue constructs and to model microgravity. We sought to develop a 3D scaffold composed of type I collagen and hydroxyapatite (collagen-HA) to characterize MLO-Y4 osteocytes following suspension culture or clinorotation.

Materials and Methods: MLO-Y4 cells were embedded in collagen-HA. The scaffold was formed into droplets for suspension culture or wall-adhered to the RCCS for clinorotation. AFM, rheometry, immunofluorescence and qRT-PCR were employed to measure the scaffold stiffness, cell viability and gene expression of cells in collagen-HA scaffolds. Dendritic cells were visualized and quantified and gene expression after suspension culture and clinorotation was compared to static controls.

Results: The optimized scaffold for the RCCS consisted of collagen with 6 mg/mL HA which had a stiffness of < 1 kPa. MLO-Y4 cell viability was higher in collagen-HA scaffolds, compared to scaffolds without HA. Collagen-HA scaffolds induced higher osteocyte-specific gene expression compared to cells cultured on 2D plastic. Cells in the scaffold downregulated DMP1, E11, IL-6, and RANKL, and had fewer dendritic cells following suspension culture whereas clinorotation downregulated DMP1 and E11 genes, compared to static controls.

Conclusions: Suspension culture for 3 days in collagen-HA stimulates growth of osteocytes but may also desensitize them to mechanical cues. Clinorotation for 3 days in collagen-HA does not stimulate proliferation or expression of mechanosensitive genes, indicating that it may be an effective mechanical unloading environment.


This project was funded by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant [RGPIN 2017-06087] and a grant from the Canadian Space Agency [15FASTB03] to R.E.H