Engineering zonal cartilaginous tissue by modulating oxygen levels and mechanical cues through the depth of infrapatellar fat pad stem cell laden hydrogels.
J Tissue Eng Regen Med
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Engineering tissues with a structure and spatial composition mimicking those of native articular cartilage (AC) remains a challenge. This study examined if infrapatellar fat pad-derived stem cells (FPSCs) can be used to engineer cartilage grafts with a bulk composition and a spatial distribution of matrix similar to the native tissue. In an attempt to mimic the oxygen gradients and mechanical environment within AC, FPSC-laden hydrogels (either 2 mm or 4 mm in height) were confined to half of their thickness and/or subjected to dynamic compression (DC). Confining FPSC-laden hydrogels was predicted to accentuate the gradient in oxygen tension through the depth of the constructs (higher in the top and lower in the bottom), leading to enhanced glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen synthesis in 2 mm high tissues. When subjected to DC alone, both GAG and collagen accumulation increased within 2 mm high unconfined constructs. Furthermore, the dynamic modulus of constructs increased from 0.96 MPa to 1.45 MPa following the application of DC. There was no synergistic benefit of coupling confinement and DC on overall levels of matrix accumulation; however in all constructs, irrespective of their height, the combination of these boundary conditions led to the development of engineered tissues that spatially best resembled native AC. The superficial region of these constructs mimicked that of native tissue, staining weakly for GAG, strongly for type II collagen, and in 4 mm high tissues more intensely for proteoglycan 4 (lubricin). This study demonstrated that FPSCs respond to joint-like environmental conditions by producing cartilage tissues mimicking native AC. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.