Functional tissue engineering of articular cartilage through dynamic loading of chondrocyte-seeded agarose gels

J Biomech Eng. 2000 Jun;122(3):252-60. doi: 10.1115/1.429656.


Due to its avascular nature, articular cartilage exhibits a very limited capacity to regenerate and to repair. Although much of the tissue-engineered cartilage in existence has been successful in mimicking the morphological and biochemical appearance of hyaline cartilage, it is generally mechanically inferior to the natural tissue. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the application of dynamic deformational loading at physiological strain levels enhances chondrocyte matrix elaboration in cell-seeded agarose scaffolds to produce a more functional engineered tissue construct than in free swelling controls. A custom-designed bioreactor was used to load cell-seeded agarose disks dynamically in unconfined compression with a peak-to-peak compressive strain amplitude of 10 percent, at a frequency of 1 Hz, 3 x (1 hour on, 1 hour off)/day, 5 days/week for 4 weeks. Results demonstrated that dynamically loaded disks yielded a sixfold increase in the equilibrium aggregate modulus over free swelling controls after 28 days of loading (100 +/- 16 kPa versus 15 +/- 8 kPa, p < 0.0001). This represented a 21-fold increase over the equilibrium modulus of day 0 (4.8 +/- 2.3 kPa). Sulfated glycosaminoglycan content and hydroxyproline content was also found to be greater in dynamically loaded disks compared to free swelling controls at day 21 (p < 0.0001 and p = 0.002, respectively).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Cartilage, Articular / cytology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / growth & development*
  • Cattle
  • Chondrocytes / chemistry
  • Chondrocytes / physiology*
  • Compressive Strength
  • Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Gels
  • Glycosaminoglycans / analysis
  • Hydroxyproline / analysis
  • Sepharose*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors
  • Weight-Bearing


  • Gels
  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • A73025
  • Sepharose
  • Hydroxyproline