Mechanical Interlocking of Engineered Cartilage to an Underlying Polymeric Substrate: Towards a Biohybrid Tissue Equivalent

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This study investigates the feasibility of engineering a biohybrid cartilage equivalent (BCE) with the long-term goal of restoring the mechanical integrity and interfacial characteristics of severely damaged cartilage. The BCE depends on the successful adhesion, via mechanical interlocking, of a cartilage layer to a nondegradable composite scaffold or prosthesis. The model scaffold, consisting of a nonwoven mesh bonded to a solid core, was seeded with bovine articular chondrocytes. High molecular weight poly(L-lactic acid), which has a slow degradation time, was used to model the nondegradable polymer. Biochemical and histological analysis demonstrate that the BCE can support the growth of a cartilaginous matrix for at least 6 weeks in culture. Mechanical testing of the BCE showed cartilage adhesion strength increased from 19.27±1.62 to 43.79±3.88 kPa between 35 and 50 days in culture. Nonmechanically interlocked cartilage achieved less than 5% of this adhesion strength. For the first time, atomic force microscopy (AFM) was used to characterize surface topography of tissue-engineered cartilage. Surface roughness of constructs after 8 and 10 weeks ranged from 153 to 171 nm, falling within the range of native cartilage (100-600 nm). This study demonstrates the feasibility of creating a biohybrid cartilage equivalent by mechanically interlocking a cartilaginous layer to an underlying polymeric matrix.

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