Osteochondral defect management and repair remain a significant challenge in orthopedic surgery. Osteochondral defects contain damage to both the articular cartilage as well as the underlying subchondral bone. In order to repair an osteochondral defect the needs of the bone, cartilage and the bone-cartilage interface must be taken into account. Current clinical treatments for the repair of osteochondral defects have only been palliative, not curative. Tissue engineering has emerged as a potential alternative as it can be effectively used to regenerate bone, cartilage and the bone-cartilage interface. Several scaffold strategies, such as single phase, layered, and recently graded structures have been developed and evaluated for osteochondral defect repair. Also, as a potential cell source, tissue specific cells and progenitor cells are widely studied in cell culture models, as well with the osteochondral scaffolds in vitro and in vivo. Novel factor strategies being developed, including single factor, multi-factor, or controlled factor release in a graded fashion, not only assist bone and cartilage regeneration, but also establish osteochondral interface formation. The field of tissue engineering has made great strides, however further research needs to be carried out to make this strategy a clinical reality. In this review, we summarize current tissue engineering strategies, including scaffold design, bioreactor use, as well as cell and factor based approaches and recent developments for osteochondral defect repair. In addition, we discuss various challenges that need to be addressed in years to come.
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