• Laryngotracheal reconstruction;
  • cartilage implant;
  • tissue engineering;
  • subglottic stenosis;
  • scaffold free



Donor site morbidity, including pneumothorax, can be a considerable problem when harvesting cartilage grafts for laryngotracheal reconstruction (LTR). Tissue engineered cartilage may offer a solution to this problem. This study investigated the feasibility of using autologous chondrocytes to tissue-engineer scaffold-free cartilage grafts for LTR in rabbits to avoid degradation that often arises from an inflammatory reaction to scaffold carrier matrix.

Study Design:

Animal study.


Auricular cartilage was harvested from seven New Zealand white rabbits, the chondrocytes expanded and loaded onto a custom-made bioreactor for 7 to 8 weeks to fabricate autologous scaffold-free cartilage sheets. The sheets were cut to size and used for LTR, and the rabbits were sacrificed 4, 8, and 12 weeks after the LTR and prepared for histology.


None of the seven rabbits showed signs of respiratory distress. A smooth, noninflammatory scar was visible intraluminally; the remainder of the tracheal lumen was unremarkable. Histologically, the grafts showed no signs of degradation or inflammatory reaction, were covered with mucosal epithelium, but did show signs of mechanical failure at the implantation site.


These results show that autologous chondrocytes can be used to fabricate an implantable sheet of cartilage that retains a cartilage phenotype, becomes integrated, and does not produce a significant inflammatory reaction. These findings suggest that with the design of stronger implants, these implants can be successfully used as a graft for LTR. Laryngoscope, 2010