The biomechanical functionality of articular cartilage is derived from both its biochemical composition and the architecture of the collagen network. Failure to replicate this normal Benninghoff architecture in regenerating articular cartilage may in turn predispose the tissue to failure. In this article, the influence of the maturity (or functionality) of a tissue-engineered construct at the time of implantation into a tibial chondral defect on the likelihood of recapitulating a normal Benninghoff architecture was investigated using a computational model featuring a collagen remodeling algorithm. Such a normal tissue architecture was predicted to form in the intact tibial plateau due to the interplay between the depth-dependent extracellular matrix properties, foremost swelling pressures, and external mechanical loading. In the presence of even small empty defects in the articular surface, the collagen architecture in the surrounding cartilage was predicted to deviate significantly from the native state, indicating a possible predisposition for osteoarthritic changes. These negative alterations were alleviated by the implantation of tissue-engineered cartilage, where a mature implant was predicted to result in the formation of a more native-like collagen architecture than immature implants. The results of this study highlight the importance of cartilage graft functionality to maintain and/or re-establish joint function and suggest that engineering a tissue with a native depth-dependent composition may facilitate the establishment of a normal Benninghoff collagen architecture after implantation into load-bearing defects.
Trinity College Dublin ->