Application of an acoustofluidic perfusion bioreactor for cartilage tissue engineering
Cartilage grafts generated using conventional static tissue engineering strategies are characterised by low cell viability, suboptimal hyaline cartilage formation and, critically, inferior mechanical competency, which limit their application for resurfacing articular cartilage defects. To address the limitations of conventional static cartilage bioengineering strategies and generate robust, scaffold-free neocartilage grafts of human articular chondrocytes, the present study utilised custom-built microfluidic perfusion bioreactors with integrated ultrasound standing wave traps. The system employed sweeping acoustic drive frequencies over the range of 890 to 910 kHz and continuous perfusion of the chondrogenic culture medium at a low-shear flow rate to promote the generation of three-dimensional agglomerates of human articular chondrocytes, and enhance cartilage formation by cells of the agglomerates via improved mechanical stimulation and mass transfer rates. Histological examination and assessment of micromechanical properties using indentation-type atomic force microscopy confirmed that the neocartilage grafts were analogous to native hyaline cartilage. Furthermore, in the ex vivo organ culture partial thickness cartilage defect model, implantation of the neocartilage grafts into defects for 16 weeks resulted in the formation of hyaline cartilage-like repair tissue that adhered to the host cartilage and contributed to significant improvements to the tissue architecture within the defects, compared to the empty defects. The study has demonstrated the first successful application of the acoustofluidic perfusion bioreactors to bioengineer scaffold-free neocartilage grafts of human articular chondrocytes that have the potential for subsequent use in second generation autologous chondrocyte implantation procedures for the repair of partial thickness cartilage defects.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Implantable Devices