A new bi-layered scaffold for osteochondral tissue regeneration: In vitro and in vivo preclinical investigations

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Current treatments for acute or degenerative chondral and osteochondral lesions are in need of improvement, as these types of injuries lead to disability and worsen the quality of life in a high percentage of patients. The aim of this study was to develop a new bi-layered scaffold for osteochondral tissue regeneration through a “biomimetic” and “bioinspired” approach. For chondral regeneration, the scaffold was realized with an organic compound (type I collagen), while for the regeneration of the subchondral layer, bioactive magnesium-doped hydroxyapatite (Mg/HA) crystals were co-precipitated with the organic component of the scaffold. The entire scaffold structure was stabilized with a cross-linking agent, highly reactive bis-epoxyde (1,4-butanediol diglycidyl ether – BDDGE 1 wt%). The developed scaffold was then characterized for its physico-chemical characteristics. Its structure and adhesion strength between the integrated layers were investigated. At the same time, in vitro cell culture studies were carried out to examine the ability of chondral and bone scaffold layers to separately support adhesion, proliferation and differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) into chondrocytes and osteoblasts, respectively. Moreover, an in vivo study with nude mice, transplanted with osteochondral scaffolds plain or engineered with undifferentiated hMSCs, was also set up with 4 and 8-week time points. The results showed that chondral and bone scaffold layers represented biocompatible scaffolds able to sustain hMSCs attachment and proliferation. Moreover, the association of scaffold stimuli and differentiation medium, induced hMSCs chondrogenic and osteogenic differentiation and deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM). The ectopic implantation of the engineered osteochondral scaffolds indicated that hMSCs were able to colonize the osteochondral scaffold in depth. The scaffold appeared permissive to tissue growth and penetration, ensuring the diffusion of nutrients and oxygen, as also suggested by the presence of a neo-angiogenesis process, especially at 4 weeks. Moreover, the in vivo results further confirmed the great potential of the scaffold in tissue engineering, as it was able to support the initial formation of new bone and chondral tissue, confirming the importance of combined and innovative strategies to improve the available therapeutic strategies for chondral and osteochondral regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-111
Number of pages11
JournalMaterials Science and Engineering C
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Animal model
  • Bi-layered scaffold
  • Biomimetic
  • Collagen I
  • Histology
  • Implant
  • Magnesium-doped hydroxyapatite
  • Molecular biology
  • Osteochondral lesion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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