Porous materials are highly preferred for bone tissue engineering due to space for blood vessel ingrowth, but this may introduce extra experimental variations because of the difficulty in precise control of porosity. In order to decide whether it is absolutely necessary to use porous materials in in vitro
comparative osteogenesis study of materials with different chemistries, we carried out osteoinductivity study using C3H/10T1/2 cells, pluripotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), on seven material types: hydroxyapatite (HA), α-tricalcium phosphate (α-TCP) and b-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP) in both porous and dense forms and tissue culture plastic. For all materials under test, dense materials give higher alkaline phosphatase gene (Alp
) expression compared with porous materials. In addition, the cell density effects on the 10T1/2 cells were assessed through alkaline phosphatase protein (ALP) enzymatic assay. The ALP expression was higher for higher initial cell plating density and this explains the greater osteoinductivity of dense materials compared with porous materials for in vitro
study as porous materials would have higher surface area. On the other hand, the same trend of Alp
mRNA level (HA > β-TCP > α-TCP) was observed for both porous and dense materials, validating the use of dense flat materials for comparative study of materials with different chemistries for more reliable comparison when well-defined porous materials are not available. The avoidance of porosity variation would probably facilitate more reproducible results. This study does not suggest porosity is not required for experiments related to bone regeneration application, but emphasizes that there is often a tradeoff between higher clinical relevance, and less variation in a less complex set up, which facilitates a statistically significant conclusion. Technically, we also show that the base of normalization for ALP activity may influence the conclusion and there may be ALP activity from serum, necessitating the inclusion of “no cell” control in ALP activity assay with materials. These explain the opposite conclusions drawn by different groups on the effect of porosity.