Bioprinting of Chondrocyte Stem Cell Co-Cultures for Auricular Cartilage Regeneration
Advances in 3D bioprinting allows not only controlled deposition of cells or cell-laden hydrogels but also flexibility in creating constructs that match the anatomical features of the patient. This is especially the case for reconstructing the pinna (ear), which is a large feature of the face and made from elastic cartilage that primarily relies on diffusion for nutrient transfer. The selection of cell lines for reconstructing this cartilage becomes a crucial step in clinical translation. Chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells are both studied extensively in the area of cartilage regeneration as they are capable of producing cartilage in vitro. However, such monoculture systems involve unfavorable processes and produce cartilage with suboptimal characteristics. Co-cultures of these cell types are known to alleviate these limitations to produce synergically active chondrocytes and cartilage. The current study utilized a 3D bioprinted scaffold made from combined gelatine methacryloyl and methacrylated hyaluronic acid (GelMA/HAMA) to interrogate monocultures and co-cultures of human septal chondrocytes (primary chondrocytes, PCs) and human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-hMSCs). This study is also the first to examine co-cultures of healthy human chondrocytes with human BM-hMSCs encapsulated in GelMA/HAMA bioprinted scaffolds. Findings revealed that the combination of MSCs and PCs not only yielded cell proliferation that mimicked MSCs but also produced chondrogenic expressions that mimicked PCs. These findings suggested that co-cultures of BM-hMSCs and healthy septal PCs can be employed to replace monocultures in chondrogenic studies for cartilage regeneration in this model. The opportunity for MSCs used to replace PCs alleviates the requirement of large cartilage biopsies that would otherwise be needed for sufficient cell numbers and therefore can be employed for clinical applications.