In this study we investigated whether expanded goat chondrocytes have the capacity to generate cartilaginous tissues with biochemical and biomechanical properties improving with time in culture. Goat chondrocytes were expanded in monolayer with or without combinations of FGF-2, TGF-β1, and PDGFbb, and the postexpansion chondrogenic capacity assessed in pellet cultures.
Expanded chondrocytes were also cultured for up to 6 weeks in HYAFF®-M nonwoven meshes or Polyactive™ foams, and the resulting cartilaginous tissues were assessed histologically, biochemically, and biomechanically. Supplementation of the expansion medium with FGF-2 increased the proliferation rate of goat chondrocytes and enhanced their postexpansion chondrogenic capacity. FGF-2-expanded chondrocytes seeded in HYAFF®-M or PolyactiveTM scaffolds formed cartilaginous tissues with wet weight, glycosaminoglycan, and collagen content, increasing from 2 days to 6 weeks culture (up to respectively 2-, 8-, and 41-fold). Equilibrium and dynamic stiffness measured in HYAFF®-M-based constructs also increased with time, up to, respectively, 1.3- and 16-fold. This study demonstrates the feasibility to engineer goat cartilaginous tissues at different stages of development by varying culture time, and thus opens the possibility to test the effect of maturation stage of engineered cartilage on the outcome of cartilage repair in orthotopic goat models.