Our approach to cartilage tissue-engineering scaffolds combines image-based design and solid free-form (SFF) fabrication to create load-bearing constructs with user-defined parameters. In this study, 3-dimensional scaffolds with cubic and ellipsoidal pore architecture were fabricated using poly(propylene fumarate) (PPF). To increase seeding efficiency and cellular retention, hydrogels were used to deliver cells into the scaffolds. The first objective of this study was to evaluate the concentrations of composite hyaluronic acid (HyA) and collagen I hydrogels best able to stimulate proteoglycan synthesis in porcine chondrocytes in vitro and in vivo. The second objective was to evaluate the differences in extracellular matrix production due to pore geometry and scaffold design. For the in vitro assessment, chondrocytes were encapsulated in collagen I hydrogels with varying concentrations of HyA. Hydrogels were cultured for 1 and 2 weeks, and then the sulfated glycosaminoglycan (sGAG) content was quantified using a dimethyl-methylene blue assay. The concentration of HyA best able to increase ECM synthesis was 5% HyA/collagen I, or 0.23 mg/mL HyA. The results from the in vitro experiment were used as culture parameters for the in vivo analysis. Composite 5% HyA/collagen I or collagen I-only hydrogels were used to seed chondrocytes into SFF-fabricated scaffolds made of PPF with designed cubic or ellipsoidal pore geometry. The scaffolds were implanted subcutaneously in immunocompromised mice for 4 weeks. Histomorphometric analyses of sections stained with Safranin O were used to quantify the amount of ECM deposited by cells in the scaffolds. Scaffolds seeded with 5% HyA/collagen hydrogels had significantly greater areas of positive Safranin O staining (approximately 60%, compared with 30% for scaffolds with collagen I hydrogels only), indicating that greater numbers of chondrocytes retained their metabolic activity in the ectopic environment. These scaffolds also had greater stain intensities (corresponding to greater amounts of sGAG in the ECM) than their counterparts seeded with collagen I hydrogels alone. Significant differences in matrix production were not found between the scaffold pore designs. Overall, these results indicate that a combination of composite HyA hydrogels and designed SFF scaffolds could provide a functional tissue-engineered construct for cartilage repair with enhanced tissue regeneration in a load-bearing scaffold.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology