Shaped, Stratified, Scaffold-free Grafts for Articular Cartilage Defects
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One goal of treatment for large articular cartilage defects is to restore the anatomic contour of the joint with tissue having a structure similar to native cartilage. Shaped and stratified cartilaginous tissue may be fabricated into a suitable graft to achieve such restoration. We asked if scaffold-free cartilaginous constructs, anatomically shaped and targeting spherically-shaped hips, can be created using a molding technique and if biomimetic stratification of the shaped constructs can be achieved with appropriate superficial and middle/deep zone chondrocyte subpopulations. The shaped, scaffold-free constructs were formed from the alginate-released bovine calf chondrocytes with shaping on one (saucer), two (cup), or neither (disk) surfaces. The saucer and cup constructs had shapes distinguishable quantitatively (radius of curvature of 5.5 ± 0.1 mm for saucer and 2.8 ± 0.1 mm for cup) and had no adverse effects on the glycosaminoglycan and collagen contents and their distribution in the constructs as assessed by biochemical assays and histology, respectively. Biomimetic stratification of chondrocyte subpopulations in saucer- and cup-shaped constructs was confirmed and quantified using fluorescence microscopy and image analysis. This shaping method, combined with biomimetic stratification, has the potential to create anatomically contoured large cartilaginous constructs.