Characterization of a cartilage-like engineered biomass using a self-aggregating suspension culture model: Molecular composition using FT-IRIS

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Maintenance of chondrocyte phenotype and robust expression and organization of macromolecular components with suitable cartilaginous properties is an ultimate goal in cartilage tissue engineering. We used a self-aggregating suspension culture (SASC) method to produce an engineered cartilage, “cartilage tissue analog” (CTA). With an objective of understanding the stability of phenotype of the CTA over long periods, we cultured chondrocytes up to 4 years and analyzed the matrix. Both early (eCTAs) (6 months) and aged (aCTAs) (4 years) showed type II collagen throughout with higher concentrations near the edge. Using Fourier transform-infrared imaging spectroscopy (FT-IRIS), proteoglycan/collagen ratio of eCTA was 2.8 times greater than native cartilage at 1 week, but the ratio was balanced to native level (p = 0.017) by 36 weeks. Surprisingly, aCTAs maintained the hyaline characteristics, but there was evidence of calcification within the tissue with a distinct range of intensities. Mineral/matrix ratio of those aCTA with “intensive” calcification was significantly higher (p = 0.017) than the “partial,” but when compared to native bone the ratio of “intensive” aCTAs was 2.4 times lower. In this study we utilized the imaging approach of FT-IRIS and have shown that a biomaterial formed is compositionally closely related to natural cartilage for long periods in culture. We show that this culture platform can maintain a CTA for extended periods of time (4 years) and under those conditions signs of mineralization can be found. This method of cartilage tissue engineering is a promising method to generate cartilaginous biomaterial and may have potential to be utilized in both cartilage and boney repairs. © 2011 Orthopaedic Research Society Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 29:1881–1887, 2011

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