A tri-component knee plug for the 3rd generation of autologous chondrocyte implantation

Here, we report a newly designed knee plug to be used in the 3rd generation of Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI) in order to heal the damaged knee cartilage. It is composed of three components: The first component (Bone Portion) is a 3D printed hard scaffold with large pores (~ 850 µm), made by hydroxyapatite and β-tricalcium phosphate to accommodate the bony parts underneath the knee cartilage. It is a cylinder with a diameter of 20 mm and height of 7.5 mm, with a slight dome shape on top. The plug also comprises a Cartilage Portion (component 2) which is a 3D printed gelatin/elastin/sodium-hyaluronate soft thick porous membrane with large pores to accommodate chondrocytes. Cartilage Portion is secured on top of the Bone Portion using mechanical interlocking by designing specific knobs in the 3D printed construct of the Cartilage Portion. The third component of the plug (Film) is a stitchable permeable membrane consisting of polycaprolactone (PCL) on top of the Cartilage Portion to facilitate sliding of the knee joint and to hold the entire plug in place while allowing nutrients delivery to the Cartilage Portion. The PCL Film is prepared using a combination of film casting and sacrificial material leaching with a pore size of 10 µm. It is surface modified to have specific affinity with the Cartilage Portion. The detailed design criteria and production process of this plug is presented in this report. Full in vitro analyses have been performed, which indicate the compatibility of the different components of the plug relative to their expected functions.