Mechanical properties of tissue-engineered cartilage and a variety of endogenous cartilage were measured. The main goal was to evaluate if the tissue-engineered cartilage have similar mechanical characteristics to be replaced with rib cartilage in microtia reconstruction. Such study lays the foundation for future human clinical trials for microtia reconstruction.Method:
Atomic force microscopy and compression testing were used to measure the viscoelasticity of tissue-engineered cartilage (stem cell seeded on Poly lactic co-glycolytic acid nanofibers and Pellet) and endogenous cartilage: conchal bowl, microtic ears, preauricular remnants, and rib. Atomic force microscopy, calculates biomaterial elasticity through force-deformation measurement and Hertz model. Compression testing determines the stress relaxation by measuring slope of stress reduction at 10% strain.Finding:
Tissue-engineered cartilage demonstrated elasticity (4.6 kPa for pellet and 6.6 kPa for PLGA) and stress relaxation properties (7.6 (SD 1.1) kPa/s for pellet) most similar to those of native conchal bowl cartilage (31.8 (SD 18) kPa for the elasticity and 15.1 (SD 2.1) kPa/s for stress relaxation factor). Rib cartilage was most dissimilar from the mechanical characteristics of conchal cartilage and demonstrated the highest elastic modulus (361 (SD 372) kPa). Moreover, except preauricular cartilage samples, the level of elastic modulus increased with age.Interpretation:
The use of tissue-engineered cartilage developed via PLGA and Pellet methods, may be an appropriate substitute for rib cartilage in the reconstruction of microtic ears, however their mechanical characteristics still need to be improved and require further validation in animal studies.