Cartilage injuries remain challenging since the regenerative capacity of cartilage is extremely low. The aim was to design a novel type of bioactive glass (BG) scaffold with suitable topology that allows the formation of cartilage-specific extracellular matrix (ECM) after colonization with chondrogenic cells for cartilage repair. Highly porous scaffolds with interconnecting pores consisting of 100 % BG were manufactured using a melting, milling, sintering and leaching technique. Scaffolds were colonized with porcine articular chondrocytes (pAC) and undifferentiated human mesenchymal stromal cells (hMSC) for up to 35 days. Scaffolds displayed high cytocompatibility with no major pH shift. Scanning electron microscopy revealed the intimate pAC-scaffold interaction with typical cell morphology. After 14 days MSCs formed cell clusters but still expressed cartilage markers. Both cell types showed aggrecan, SOX9 gene and protein expression, cartilage proteoglycan and sulfated glycosaminoglycan synthesis for the whole culture time. Despite type II collagen gene expression could not anymore be detected at day 35, protein synthesis was visualized for both cell types during the whole culturing period, increasing in pAC and declining after day 14 in hMSC cultures. The novel BG scaffold was stable, cytocompatible and cartilage-specific protein synthesis indicated maintenance of pACxxxs differentiated phenotype and chondro-instructive effects on hMSCs.
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