• fibroblast;
  • ligament tissue engineering;
  • collagen gel;
  • mechanical force;
  • cell viability;
  • matrix metalloproteinase;
  • collagen synthesis;
  • cell proliferation


The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of the endogenous forces generated by fibroblast-mediated contraction, using four individual collagen gel models that differed with respect to the ability of the cells to contract the gel. Human neonatal dermal fibroblasts were seeded in type I collagen and the gels were cast in a racetrack-shaped mould containing a removable central island. Two of the models were mechanically stressed (20 mm and 10 mm), as complete contraction was prevented by the presence of a central island. The central island was removed in the third model (released) and the final model was cast in a Petri dish and detached, allowing full multi-axial contraction (SR). Cell viability was maintained in the 10 mm, released and SR models over a 6 day culture period but localized regions of cell death were evident in the 20 mm model. Cell and collagen alignment was developed in the 20 mm and 10 mm models and to a lesser extent in the released model, but was absent in the SR model. Cell proliferation and collagen synthesis was lower in the 20 mm model compared to the other systems and there was evidence of enhanced matrix metalloproteinase production. The mechanical properties of the 20 mm model system were inferior to the 10 mm and released systems. The 10 mm model system induced a high level of cell and matrix orientation and may, therefore, represent the best option for tissue-engineered ligament repair involving an orientated fibroblast-seeded collagen gel. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.