Damage of hyaline cartilage such as nasoseptal cartilage requires proper reconstruction, which remains challenging due to its low intrinsic repair capacity. Implantation of autologous chondrocytes in combination with a biomimetic biomaterial represents a promising strategy to support cartilage repair. Despite so far mostly tested for bone tissue engineering, bioactive glass (BG) could exert stimulatory effects on chondrogenesis. The aim of this work was to produce and characterize composite porous poly(L-lactide) (PLLA)/1393BG scaffolds via thermally induced phase separation (TIPS) technique and assess their effects on chondrogenesis of nasoseptal chondrocytes. The PLLA scaffolds without or with 1, 2.5, 5% BG1393 were prepared via TIPS technique starting from a ternary solution (polymer/solvent/non-solvent) in a single step. Scaffolds were characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD) and differential scanning calorimetric analysis (DSC). Human nasoseptal chondrocytes were seeded on the scaffolds with 1 and 2.5% BG for 7 and 14 days and cell survival, attachment, morphology and expression of SOX9 and cartilage-specific extracellular cartilage matrix (ECM) components were monitored. The majority of chondrocytes survived on all PLLA scaffolds functionalized with BG for the whole culture period. Also inner parts of the scaffold were colonized by chondrocytes synthesizing an ECM which contained glycosaminoglycans. Type II collagen and aggrecan gene expression increased significantly in 1% BG scaffolds during the culture. Chondrocyte protein expression for cartilage ECM proteins indicated that the chondrocytes maintained their differentiated phenotype in the scaffolds. BG could serve as a cytocompatible basis for future scaffold composites for osteochondral cartilage defect repair.
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