The enhanced differentiation of mesenchymal cells into chondrocytes or osteoblasts is of paramount importance in tissue engineering and regenerative therapies. A newly emerging body of evidence demonstrates that appendage regeneration is dependent on reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and signaling. Thus, we hypothesized that mesenchymal cell stimulation by nonthermal (NT)-plasma, which produces and induces ROS, would (1) promote skeletal cell differentiation and (2) limb autopod development. Stimulation with a single treatment of NT-plasma enhanced survival, growth, and elongation of mouse limb autopods in an in vitro organ culture system. Noticeable changes included enhanced development of digit length and definition of digit separation. These changes were coordinated with enhanced Wnt signaling in the distal apical epidermal ridge (AER) and presumptive joint regions. Autopod development continued to advance for approximately 144 h in culture, seemingly overcoming the negative culture environment usually observed in this in vitro system. Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis confirmed the up-regulation of chondrogenic transcripts. Mechanistically, NT-plasma increased the number of ROS positive cells in the dorsal epithelium, mesenchyme, and the distal tip of each phalange behind the AER, determined using dihydrorhodamine. The importance of ROS production/signaling during development was further demonstrated by the stunting of digital outgrowth when anti-oxidants were applied. Results of this study show NT-plasma initiated and amplified ROS intracellular signaling to enhance development of the autopod. Parallels between development and regeneration suggest that the potential use of NT-plasma could extend to both tissue engineering and clinical applications to enhance fracture healing, trauma repair, and bone fusion.
Chernets, Natalie; Zhang, Jun; Steinbeck, Marla J; Kurpad, Deepa S; Koyama, Eiki; Friedman, Gary; and Freeman, Theresa A., "Nonthermal atmospheric pressure plasma enhances mouse limb bud survival, growth, and elongation." (2015). Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Faculty Papers. Paper 82.