Cells (Jul 2023)

Human Keratinocytes and Fibroblasts Co-Cultured on Silk Fibroin Scaffolds Exosomally Overrelease Angiogenic and Growth Factors

  • Peng Hu,
  • Ubaldo Armato,
  • Giuliano Freddi,
  • Anna Chiarini,
  • Ilaria Dal Prà

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 14
p. 1827


Read online

Objectives: The optimal healing of skin wounds, deep burns, and chronic ulcers is an important clinical problem. Attempts to solve it have been driving the search for skin equivalents based on synthetic or natural polymers. Methods: Consistent with this endeavor, we used regenerated silk fibroin (SF) from Bombyx mori to produce a novel compound scaffold by welding a 3D carded/hydroentangled SF-microfiber-based nonwoven layer (C/H-3D-SFnw; to support dermis engineering) to an electrospun 2D SF nanofiber layer (ESFN; a basal lamina surrogate). Next, we assessed—via scanning electron microscopy, attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, differential scanning calorimetry, mono- and co-cultures of HaCaT keratinocytes and adult human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs), dsDNA assays, exosome isolation, double-antibody arrays, and angiogenesis assays—whether the C/H-3D-SFnws/ESFNs would allow the reconstitution of a functional human skin analog in vitro. Results: Physical analyses proved that the C/H-3D-SFnws/ESFNs met the requirements for human soft-tissue-like implants. dsDNA assays revealed that co-cultures of HaCaTs (on the 2D ESFN surface) and HDFs (inside the 3D C/H-3D-SFnws) grew more intensely than did the respective monocultures. Double-antibody arrays showed that the CD9+/CD81+ exosomes isolated from the 14-day pooled growth media of HDF and/or HaCaT mono- or co-cultures conveyed 35 distinct angiogenic/growth factors (AGFs). However, versus monocultures’ exosomes, HaCaT/HDF co-cultures’ exosomes (i) transported larger amounts of 15 AGFs, i.e., PIGF, ANGPT-1, bFGF, Tie-2, Angiogenin, VEGF-A, VEGF-D, TIMP-1/-2, GRO-α/-β/-γ, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, MMP-9, and MCP-1, and (ii) significantly more strongly stimulated human dermal microvascular endothelial cells to migrate and assemble tubes/nodes in vitro. Conclusions: Our results showed that both cell–cell and cell–SF interactions boosted the exosomal release of AGFs from HaCaTs/HDFs co-cultured on C/H-3D-SFnws/ESFNs. Hence, such exosomes are an asset for prospective clinical applications as they advance cell growth and neoangiogenesis and consequently graft take and skin healing. Moreover, this new integument analog could be instrumental in preclinical and translational studies on human skin pathophysiology and regeneration.