Biomimetics of the Extracellular Matrix: An Integrated Three-Dimensional Fiber-Hydrogel Composite for Cartilage Tissue Engineering

Smart Struct Syst. 2011 Jan 1;7(3):213-222. doi: 10.12989/sss.2011.7.3.213.


The native extracellular matrix (ECM) consists of an integrated fibrous protein network and proteoglycan-based ground (hydrogel) substance. We designed a novel electrospinning technique to engineer a three dimensional fiber-hydrogel composite that mimics the native ECM structure, is injectable, and has practical macroscale dimensions for clinically relevant tissue defects. In a model system of articular cartilage tissue engineering, the fiber-hydrogel composites enhanced the biological response of adult stem cells, with dynamic mechanical stimulation resulting in near native levels of extracellular matrix. This technology platform was expanded through structural and biochemical modification of the fibers including hydrophilic fibers containing chondroitin sulfate, a significant component of endogenous tissues, and hydrophobic fibers containing ECM microparticles.