Regenerating articular cartilage and fibrocartilaginous tissue such as the meniscus is still a challenge in orthopedic medicine. While a range of different scaffolds have been developed for joint repair, none have facilitated the development of a tissue that mimics the complexity of soft tissues such as articular cartilage. Furthermore, many of these scaffolds are not designed to function in mechanically challenging joint environments. The overall goal of this study was to develop a porous, biomimetic, shape-memory alginate scaffold for directing cartilage regeneration. To this end, a scaffold was designed with architectural cues to guide cellular and neo-tissue alignment, which was additionally functionalized with a range of extracellular matrix cues to direct stem cell differentiation toward the chondrogenic lineage. Shape-memory properties were introduced by covalent cross-linking alginate using carbodiimide chemistry, while the architecture of the scaffold was modified using a directional freezing technique. Introducing such an aligned pore structure was found to improve the mechanical properties of the scaffold, and promoted higher levels of sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAG) and collagen deposition compared to an isotropic (nonaligned) pore geometry when seeded with adult human stem cells. Functionalization with collagen improved stem cell recruitment into the scaffold and facilitated more homogenous cartilage tissue deposition throughout the construct. Incorporating type II collagen into the scaffolds led to greater cell proliferation, higher sGAG and collagen accumulation, and the development of a stiffer tissue compared to scaffolds functionalized with type I collagen. The results of this study demonstrate how both scaffold architecture and composition can be tailored in a shape-memory alginate scaffold to direct stem cell differentiation and support the development of complex cartilaginous tissues.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland ->