Direct human cartilage repair using three-dimensional bioprinting technology

Tissue Eng Part A. 2012 Jun;18(11-12):1304-12. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2011.0543. Epub 2012 Apr 19.


Current cartilage tissue engineering strategies cannot as yet fabricate new tissue that is indistinguishable from native cartilage with respect to zonal organization, extracellular matrix composition, and mechanical properties. Integration of implants with surrounding native tissues is crucial for long-term stability and enhanced functionality. In this study, we developed a bioprinting system with simultaneous photopolymerization capable for three-dimensional (3D) cartilage tissue engineering. Poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDMA) with human chondrocytes were printed to repair defects in osteochondral plugs (3D biopaper) in layer-by-layer assembly. Compressive modulus of printed PEGDMA was 395.73±80.40 kPa, which was close to the range of the properties of native human articular cartilage. Printed human chondrocytes maintained the initially deposited positions due to simultaneous photopolymerization of surrounded biomaterial scaffold, which is ideal in precise cell distribution for anatomic cartilage engineering. Viability of printed human chondrocytes increased 26% in simultaneous polymerization than polymerized after printing. Printed cartilage implant attached firmly with surrounding tissue and greater proteoglycan deposition was observed at the interface of implant and native cartilage in Safranin-O staining. This is consistent with the enhanced interface failure strength during the culture assessed by push-out testing. Printed cartilage in 3D biopaper had elevated glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content comparing to that without biopaper when normalized to DNA. These observations were consistent with gene expression results. This study indicates the importance of direct cartilage repair and promising anatomic cartilage engineering using 3D bioprinting technology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cartilage, Articular / drug effects
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Cattle
  • Chondrocytes / drug effects
  • Chondrocytes / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / drug effects
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate
  • Materials Testing
  • Mechanical Phenomena
  • Methacrylates
  • Polyethylene Glycols / pharmacology
  • Polymerization / radiation effects
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Tissue Scaffolds
  • Wound Healing* / drug effects


  • Methacrylates
  • poly(ethylene glycol)-dimethacrylate
  • Hydrogel, Polyethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate
  • Polyethylene Glycols