Objectives/Hypothesis: The goal of the current study was to use computer-aided design and injection molding technologies to tissue engineer precisely shaped cartilage in the shape of butterfly tympanic membrane patches out of chondrocyte-seeded calcium alginate gels.
Methods: Molds were designed on SolidWorks 2000 and built out of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) using fused deposition modeling (FDM). Tympanic membrane patches were fabricated using bovine articular chondrocytes seeded at 50 × 106 cells/mL in 2% calcium alginate gels. Molded patches were cultured in vitro for up to 10 weeks and assessed biochemically, morphologically, and histologically.
Results: Unmolded patches demonstrated outstanding dimensional fidelity, with a volumetric precision of at least 3 μL, and maintained their shape well for up to 10 weeks of in vitro culture. Glycosaminoglycan and collagen content increased steadily over 10 weeks in culture, demonstrating continual deposition of new extracellular matrix consistent with new tissue development.
Conclusions: The use of computer-aided design and injection molding technologies allows for the fabrication of very small, precisely shaped chondrocyte-seeded calcium alginate structures that faithfully maintain their shape during in vitro culture. In vitro fabrication of tympanic membrane patches with a precisely controlled geometry may have the potential to provide a minimally invasive alternative to traditional methods for the repair of chronic tympanic membrane perforations.