Scaffold design plays an essential role in tissue engineering of articular cartilage by providing the appropriate mechanical and biological environment for chondrocytes to proliferate and function. Optimization of scaffold design to generate tissue-engineered cartilage has traditionally been conducted using in-vitro and in-vivo models. Recent advances in computational analysis allow us to significantly decrease the time and cost of scaffold optimization using finite element analysis (FEA). FEA is an in-silico analysis technique that allows for scaffold design optimization by predicting mechanical responses of cells and scaffolds under applied loads. Finite element analyses can potentially mimic the morphology of cartilage using mesh elements (tetrahedral, hexahedral), material properties (elastic, hyperelastic, poroelastic, composite), physiological loads by applying loading conditions (static, dynamic), and constitutive stress–strain equations (linear, porous–elastic, biphasic). Furthermore, FEA can be applied to the study of the effects of dynamic loading, material properties cell differentiation, cell activity, scaffold structure optimization, and interstitial fluid flow, in isolated or combined multi-scale models. This review covers recent studies and trends in the use of FEA for cartilage tissue engineering and scaffold design.
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