In Vivo Cartilage Tissue Engineering Using a Cell-Derived Extracellular Matrix Scaffold

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We have observed in our previous study that a cell-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold could assure the growth of a cartilage tissue construct in vitro. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility of a chondrocyte-seeded cell-derived ECM scaffold by implanting it in vivo in nude mouse. A porous cell-derived ECM scaffold was prepared with a freeze-drying protocol using porcine chondrocytes. Rabbit articular chondrocytes were seeded onto the scaffold and cultured for 2 days in vitro, and then implanted into the nude mouse subcutaneously. They were retrieved at 1, 2, and 3 weeks postimplantation. Under macroscopic analysis, the cartilage-like tissue formation matured with time and developed a smooth, white surface. Contrary to the control (in which no cells were seeded), the size of the neocartilage tissue increased slightly by the third week and remained more stable. Total glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content and the GAG/DNA ratio increased significantly with time in the chemical analysis. The histology exhibited a sustained accumulation of newly synthesized sulfated proteoglycans. Immunohistochemistry, Western blot, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) clearly identified type II collagen at all time points. Compressive strength of in vivo neocartilage increased from 0.45 ± 0.06 MPa at 1 week to 1.18 ± 0.17 MPa at 3 weeks. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that the cell-derived ECM scaffold could provide chondrocytes with favorable in vivo environment to produce a hyaline-like cartilage tissue.

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