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Keywords:

  • isolated chondrocytes;
  • cell aggregation;
  • alginate;
  • collagen;
  • elastin;
  • engineering of elastic cartilage

Abstract

Transplantation of isolated chondrocytes has long been acknowledged as a potential method for rebuilding small defects in damaged or deformed cartilages. Recent advances in tissue engineering permit us to focus on production of larger amounts of cartilaginous tissue, such as might be needed for reconstructive surgery of the entire auricle. In this report we describe modification of the basic techniques that lead to production of a large amount of elastic cartilage originated from porcine and human isolated chondrocytes. Small fragments of auricular cartilage were harvested from children undergoing ear reconstruction for microtia or extirpation of preauricular tags and from ears of juvenile pigs. Enzymatically isolated elastic chondrocytes were then agitated in suspension to form the chondronlike aggregates, which were further embedded in molded hydrogel constructs made of alginate and type I collagen augmented with κ-elastin. The constructs were then implanted in nude mice and harvested 4 and 12 weeks after heterotransplantation. The resulting neocartilage closely resembled native auricular cartilage at the gross, microscopic, and ultrastructural levels. Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy additionally confirmed that the newly produced cartilage contained the major components of the elastic cartilage-specific matrix, including collagen type II, proteoglycans, and well-assembled elastic fibers. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res, 44, 280–288, 1999.