Tissue engineering is viewed as a promising option for long-term repair of cartilage lesions, but current engineered cartilage constructs fail to match the mechanical properties of native tissue. The extracellular matrix of adult human articular cartilage contains highly organized collagen fibrils that enhance the mechanical properties of the tissue. Unlike articular cartilage, mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) based tissue engineered cartilage constructs lack this oriented microstructure and therefore display much lower mechanical strength. The goal of this study was to investigate the effect of biomolecular gradients and shear stress on MSCs undergoing chondrogenesis within a microfluidic device. Via poly(dimethyl siloxane) soft-lithography, microfluidic devices containing a gradient generator were created. Human MSCs were seeded within these chambers and exposed to flow-based transforming growth factor β1 (TGF-β1) gradients. When the MSCs were both confluent and exposed to shear stress, the cells aligned along the flow direction. Exposure to TGF-β1 gradients led to chondrogenesis of MSCs, indicated by positive type II collagen staining. These results, together with a previous study that showed that aligned MSCs produce aligned collagen, suggest that oriented cartilage tissue structures with superior mechanical properties can be obtained by aligning MSCs along the flow direction and exposing MSCs to chondrogenic gradients.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited