Cartilage tissue engineering strategies generally result in homogeneous tissue structures with little resemblance to the native zonal organization of articular cartilage. The objective of this study was to use bilayered photopolymerized hydrogels to organize zone-specific chondrocytes in a stratified framework and study the effects of this three-dimensional coculture system on the properties of the engineered tissue. Superficial and deep zone chondrocytes from bovine articular cartilage were photoencapsulated in separate hydrogels as well as in adjacent layers of a bilayered hydrogel. Histology, mechanical testing, and biochemical analysis was performed after culturing in vitro. To evaluate the influence of coculture on tissue properties, the layers were separated and compared to constructs containing only superficial or deep cells. In the bilayered constructs, deep cells produced more collagen and proteoglycan than superficial cells, resulting in cartilage tissue with stratified, heterogeneous properties. Deep cells cocultured with superficial cells in the bilayered system demonstrated reduced proliferation and increased matrix synthesis compared to deep cells cultured alone. The bilayered constructs demonstrated greater shear and compressive strength than homogenous cell constructs. This study demonstrated that interactions between zone-specific chondrocytes affect the biological and mechanical properties of engineered cartilage. Strategies aimed to structurally organize zone-specific cells and encourage heterotypic cell interactions may contribute to improved functional properties of engineered cartilage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology