The effect of scaffold-cell entrapment capacity and physico-chemical properties on cartilage regeneration

An important tenet in designing scaffolds for regenerative medicine consists in mimicking the dynamic mechanical properties of the tissues to be replaced to facilitate patient rehabilitation and restore daily activities. In addition, it is important to determine the contribution of the forming tissue to the mechanical properties of the scaffold during culture to optimize the pore network architecture. Depending on the biomaterial and scaffold fabrication technology, matching the scaffolds mechanical properties to articular cartilage can compromise the porosity, which hampers tissue formation. Here, we show that scaffolds with controlled and interconnected pore volume and matching articular cartilage dynamic mechanical properties, are indeed effective to support tissue regeneration by co-cultured primary and expanded chondrocyte (1:4). Cells were cultured on scaffolds in vitro for 4 weeks. A higher amount of cartilage specific matrix (ECM) was formed on mechanically matching (M) scaffolds after 28 days. A less protein adhesive composition supported chondrocytes rounded morphology, which contributed to cartilaginous differentiation. Interestingly, the dynamic stiffness of matching constructs remained approximately at the same value after culture, suggesting a comparable kinetics of tissue formation and scaffold degradation. Cartilage regeneration in matching scaffolds was confirmed subcutaneously in vivo. These results imply that mechanically matching scaffolds with appropriate physico-chemical properties support chondrocyte differentiation.