Since the late 1960s, surgeons and scientists envisioned use of tissue engineering to provide an alternative treatment for tissue and organ damage by combining biological and synthetic components in such a way that a long-lasting repair was established. In addition to the treatment, the patient would also benefit from reduced donor site morbidity and operation time as compared with the standard procedures. Tremendous efforts in basic research have been done since the late 1960s to better understand chondrocyte biology and cartilage maturation and to fulfill the growing need for tissue-engineered cartilage in reconstructive, trauma, and orthopedic surgery. Starting from the first successful generation of engineered cartilaginous tissue, scientists strived to improve the properties of the cartilaginous constructs by characterizing different cell sources, modifying the environmental factors influencing cell expansion and differentiation and applying physical stimuli to modulate the mechanical properties of the construct. All these efforts have finally led to a clinical phase I trial to show the safety and feasibility of using tissue-engineered cartilage in reconstructive facial surgery. However, to bring tissue engineering into routine clinical applications and commercialize tissue-engineered grafts, further research is necessary to achieve a cost-effective, standardized, safe, and regulatory compliant process.
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