Structural and functional characterization of integrative cartilage repair in controlled model systems can play a key role in the development of innovative strategies to improve the long-term outcome of many cartilage repair procedures. In this work, we first developed a method to reproducibly generate geometrically defined disk/ring cartilage composites and to remove outgrown fibrous layers which can encapsulate cartilaginous tissues during culture. We then used the model system to test the hypothesis that such fibrous layers lead to an overestimation of biomechanical parameters of integration at the disk/ring interface. Transmission electron microscopy images of the composites after 6 weeks of culture indicated that collagen fibrils in the fibrous tissue layer were well integrated into the collagen network of the cartilage disk and ring, whereas molecular bridging between opposing disk/ring cartilage surfaces was less pronounced and restricted to regions with narrow interfacial regions (<2 μm). Stress-strain profiles generated from mechanical push-out tests for composites with the layers removed displayed a single and distinct peak, whereas profiles for composites with the layers left intact consisted of multiple superimposed peaks. As compared to composites with removed layers, composites with intact layers had significantly higher adhesive strengths (161±9 vs. 71±11 kPa) and adhesion energies (15.0±0.7 vs. 2.7±0.4 mJ/mm2). By combining structural and functional analyses, we demonstrated that the outgrowing tissue formed during in vitro culture of cartilaginous specimens should be eliminated in order to reliably quantify biomechanical parameters related to integrative cartilage repair.
- Cartilage integration
- Tissue engineering
- Transmission electron microscopy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine