Dual drug delivery collagen vehicles for modulation of skin fibrosis in vitro

João Q. Coentro, Alessia Di Nubila, Ulrike May, Stuart Prince, John Zwaagstra, Tero A.H. Järvinen, Dimitrios I. Zeugolis

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Single molecule drug delivery systems have failed to yield functional therapeutic outcomes, triggering investigations into multi-molecular drug delivery vehicles. In the context of skin fibrosis, although multi-drug systems have been assessed, no system has assessed molecular combinations that directly and specifically reduce cell proliferation, collagen synthesis and transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1) expression. Herein, a core-shell collagen type I hydrogel system was developed for the dual delivery of a TGFβ trap, a soluble recombinant protein that inhibits TGFβ signalling, and Trichostatin A (TSA), a small molecule inhibitor of histone deacetylases. The antifibrotic potential of the dual delivery system was assessed in an in vitro skin fibrosis model induced by macromolecular crowding (MMC) and TGFβ1. Sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and high performance liquid chromatography analyses revealed that ∼50% of the TGFβ trap and ∼30% of the TSA were released from the core and shell compartments, respectively, of the hydrogel system after 10 d (longest time point assessed) in culture. As a direct consequence of this slow release, the core (TGFβ trap)/shell (TSA) hydrogel system induced significantly (p < 0.05) lower than the control group (MMC and TGFβ1) collagen type I deposition (assessed via SDS-PAGE and immunocytochemistry), α smooth muscle actin (αSMA) expression (assessed via immunocytochemistry) and cellular proliferation (assessed via DNA quantification) and viability (assessed via calcein AM and ethidium homodimer-I staining) after 10 d in culture. On the other hand, direct TSA-TGFβ supplementation induced the lowest (p < 0.05) collagen type I deposition, αSMA expression and cellular proliferation and viability after 10 d in culture. Our results illustrate the potential of core-shell collagen hydrogel systems for sustained delivery of antifibrotic molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Article number025017
Number of pages19
JournalBiomedical Materials (Bristol)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • antifibrotics
  • collagen hydrogels
  • drug delivery
  • in vitro fibrosis model
  • scarring

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering


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