Hydrogel based cartilaginous tissue regeneration: recent insights and technologies
Hydrogels have been extensively employed as an attractive biomaterial to address numerous existing challenges in the fields of regenerative medicine and research because of their unique properties such as the capability to encapsulate cells, high water content, ease of modification, low toxicity, injectability, in situ spatial fit and biocompatibility. These inherent properties have created many opportunities for hydrogels as a scaffold or a cell/drug carrier in tissue regeneration, especially in the field of cartilaginous tissue such as articular cartilage and intervertebral discs. A concise overview of the anatomy/physiology of these cartilaginous tissues and their pathophysiology, epidemiology and existing clinical treatments will be briefly described. This review article will discuss the current state-of-the-art of various polymers and developing strategies that are explored in establishing different technologies for cartilaginous tissue regeneration. In particular, an innovative approach to generate scaffold-free cartilaginous tissue via a transient hydrogel scaffolding system for disease modeling to pre-clinical trials will be examined. Following that, the article reviews numerous hydrogel-based medical implants used in clinical treatment of osteoarthritis and degenerated discs. Last but not least, the challenges and future directions of hydrogel based medical implants in the regeneration of cartilaginous tissue are also discussed.