The application of plastic compression to modulate fibrin hydrogel mechanical properties.
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J Mech Behav Biomed Mater
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The inherent biocompatibility of fibrin hydrogels makes them an attractive material for use in a wide range of tissue engineering applications. Despite this, their relatively low stiffness and high compliance limits their potential for certain orthopaedic applications. Enhanced mechanical properties are desirable so as to withstand surgical handling and in vivo loading after implantation and additionally, can provide important cues to cells seeded within the hydrogel. Standard methods used to enhance the mechanical properties of biological scaffolds such as chemical or thermal crosslinking cannot be used with fibrin hydrogels as cell seeding and gel formation occurs simultaneously. The objective of this study was to investigate the use of plastic compression as a means to improve the mechanical properties of chondrocyte-seeded fibrin hydrogels and to determine the influence of such compression on cell viability within these constructs. It was found that the application of 80% strain to fibrin hydrogels for 30 min (which resulted in a permanent strain of 47.4%) produced a 2.1-fold increase in the subsequent compressive modulus. Additionally, chondrocyte viability was maintained in the plastically compressed gels with significant cellular proliferation and extracellular matrix accumulation observed over 28 days of culture. In conclusion, plastic compression can be used to modulate the density and mechanical properties of cell-seeded fibrin hydrogels and represents a useful tool for both in theatre and in vitro tissue engineering applications.