Objective: To compare matrix composition and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) fine structure among five scaffolds commonly used for in vitro chondrocyte culture and cartilage tissue engineering.
Design: Bovine articular chondrocytes were seeded into agarose, alginate, collagen I, fibrin and polyglycolic acid (PGA) constructs and cultured for 20 or 40 days. In addition to construct DNA and sulfated GAG (sGAG) contents, the delta-disaccharide compositions of the chondroitin/dermatan sulfate GAGs were determined for each scaffold group via fluorophore-assisted carbohydrate electrophoresis (FACE).
Results: Significant differences were found in cell proliferation and extracellular matrix accumulation among the five scaffold groups. Significant cell proliferation was observed for all scaffold types but occurred later (20-40 days) in PGA constructs compared to the other groups (0-20 days). By 40 days, agarose constructs had the highest sGAG to DNA ratio, while alginate and collagen I had the lowest levels. Quantitative differences in the Delta-disaccharide composition of the GAGs accumulated in the different scaffolds were also found, with the most striking variations in unsulfated and disulfated delta-disaccharides. Agarose constructs had the highest fraction of disulfated residues and the lowest fraction of unsulfated residues, with a 6-sulfated/4-sulfated disaccharide ratio most similar to that of native articular cartilage.
Conclusions: The similarities and differences among scaffolds in proteoglycan accumulation and GAG composition suggest that the scaffold material directly or indirectly influences chondrocyte proteoglycan metabolism and may have an influence on the quality of tissue engineered cartilage.