Although bone is regenerative, its regeneration capacity is limited. For bone defects beyond a critical size, further intervention is required. As an attractive strategy, bone tissue engineering (bone TE) has been widely investigated to repair bone defects. However, the rapid and effective bone regeneration of large non-healing defects is still a great challenge. Multifunctional scaffolds having osteoinductivity and osteoconductivity are desirable to fasten functional bone tissue regeneration.
In the present study, biomimetic composite scaffolds of collagen and biphasic calcium phosphate nanoparticles (BCP NPs) with a controlled release of dexamethasone (DEX) and the controlled pore structures were prepared for bone TE. DEX was introduced in the BCP NPs during preparation of the BCP NPs and hybridized with collagen scaffolds, which pore structures were controlled by using pre-prepared ice particulates as a porogen material. The composite scaffolds had well controlled and interconnected pore structures, high mechanical strength and a sustained release of DEX. The composite scaffolds showed good biocompatibility and promoted osteogenic differentiation of hMSCs when used for three-dimensional culture of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. Subcutaneous implantation of the composite scaffolds at the dorsa of athymic nude mice demonstrated that they facilitated the ectopic bone tissue regeneration. The results indicated the DEX-loaded BCP NPs/collagen composite scaffolds had high potential for bone TE.