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Keywords:

  • tissue engineering;
  • cartilage;
  • chondrocytes;
  • bioreactor;
  • perfusion;
  • dynamic compression

Abstract

Achieving sufficient functional properties prior to implantation remains a significant challenge for the development of tissue engineered cartilage. Many studies have shown chondrocytes respond well to various mechanical stimuli, resulting in the development of bioreactors capable of transmitting forces to articular cartilage in vitro. In this study, we describe the production of sizeable, tissue engineered cartilage using a novel scaffold-free approach, and determine the effect of perfusion and mechanical stimulation from a C9-x Cartigen bioreactor on the properties of the tissue engineered cartilage. We created sizable tissue engineered cartilage from porcine chondrocytes using a scaffold-free approach by centrifuging a high-density chondrocyte cell-suspension onto an agarose layer in a 50 mL tube. The gross and histological appearances, biochemical content, and mechanical properties of constructs cultured in the bioreactor for 4 weeks were compared to constructs cultured statically. Mechanical properties were determined from unconfined uniaxial compression tests. Constructs cultured in the bioreactor exhibited an increase in total GAG content, equilibrium compressive modulus, and dynamic modulus versus static constructs. Our study demonstrates the C9-x CartiGen bioreactor is able to enhance the biomechanical and biochemical properties of scaffold-free tissue engineered cartilage; however, no additional enhancement was seen between loaded and perfused groups. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2011; 108:1421–1429. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.