Rik Oude Egberink, Helen M. Zegelaar, Najoua El Boujnouni, Elly M. M. Versteeg, Willeke F. Daamen, and Roland Brock
In our aging society, the number of patients suffering from poorly healing bone defects increases. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are used in the clinic to promote bone regeneration. However, poor control of BMP delivery and thus activity necessitates high doses, resulting in adverse effects and increased costs. It has been demonstrated that messenger RNA (mRNA) provides a superior alternative to protein delivery due to local uptake and prolonged expression restricted to the site of action. Here, we present the development of porous collagen scaffolds incorporating peptide-mRNA nanoparticles (NPs). Nanoparticles were generated by simply mixing aqueous solutions of the cationic cell-penetrating peptide PepFect14 (PF14) and mRNA. Peptide-mRNA complexes were uniformly distributed throughout the scaffolds, and matrices fully preserved cell attachment and viability. There was a clear dependence of protein expression on the incorporated amount of mRNA. Importantly, after lyophilization, the mRNA formulation in the collagen scaffolds retained activity also at 4 °C over two weeks. Overall, our results demonstrate that collagen scaffolds incorporating peptide-mRNA complexes hold promise as off-the-shelf functional biomaterials for applications in regenerative medicine and constitute a viable alternative to lipid-based mRNA formulations.