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Issue 28, 2017
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Heterogeneity is key to hydrogel-based cartilage tissue regeneration

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Degradable hydrogels have been developed to provide initial mechanical support to encapsulated cells while facilitating the growth of neo-tissues. When cells are encapsulated within degradable hydrogels, the process of neo-tissue growth is complicated by the coupled phenomena of transport of large extracellular matrix macromolecules and the rate of hydrogel degradation. If hydrogel degradation is too slow, neo-tissue growth is hindered, whereas if it is too fast, complete loss of mechanical integrity can occur. Therefore, there is a need for effective modelling techniques to predict hydrogel designs based on the growth parameters of the neo-tissue. In this article, hydrolytically degradable hydrogels are investigated due to their promise in tissue engineering. A key output of the model focuses on the ability of the construct to maintain overall structural integrity as the construct transitions from a pure hydrogel to engineered neo-tissue. We show that heterogeneity in cross-link density and cell distribution is the key to this successful transition and ultimately to achieve tissue growth. Specifically, we find that optimally large regions of weak cross-linking around cells in the hydrogel and well-connected and dense cell clusters create the optimum conditions needed for neo-tissue growth while maintaining structural integrity. Experimental observations using cartilage cells encapsulated in a hydrolytically degradable hydrogel are compared with model predictions to show the potential of the proposed model.

Graphical abstract: Heterogeneity is key to hydrogel-based cartilage tissue regeneration

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Publication details

The article was received on 28 Feb 2017, accepted on 25 May 2017 and first published on 30 May 2017

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C7SM00423K
Citation: Soft Matter, 2017,13, 4841-4855
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    Heterogeneity is key to hydrogel-based cartilage tissue regeneration

    S. Lalitha Sridhar, M. C. Schneider, S. Chu, G. de Roucy, S. J. Bryant and F. J. Vernerey, Soft Matter, 2017, 13, 4841
    DOI: 10.1039/C7SM00423K

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