The knee meniscus, intervertebral disc, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disc all possess complex geometric shapes and anisotropic matrix organization. While these characteristics are imperative for proper tissue function, they are seldom recapitulated following injury or disease. Thus, this study's objective was to engineer fibrocartilages that capture both gross and molecular structural features of native tissues. Self-assembled TMJ discs were selected as the model system, as the disc exhibits a unique biconcave shape and functional anisotropy. To drive anisotropy, 50:50 co-cultures of meniscus cells and articular chondrocytes were grown in biconcave, TMJ-shaped molds and treated with two exogenous stimuli: biomechanical (BM) stimulation via passive axial compression and bioactive agent (BA) stimulation via chondroitinase-ABC and transforming growth factor-β1. BM + BA synergistically increased Col/WW, Young's modulus, and ultimate tensile strength 5.8-fold, 14.7-fold, and 13.8-fold that of controls, respectively; it also promoted collagen fibril alignment akin to native tissue. Finite element analysis found BM stimulation to create direction-dependent strains within the neotissue, suggesting shape plays an essential role toward driving in vitro anisotropic neotissue development. Methods used in this study offer insight on the ability to achieve physiologic anisotropy in biomaterials through the strategic application of spatial, biomechanical, and biochemical cues.
Keywords: Biomimetic material; Extracellular matrix; Finite element analysis; Self-assembly; Soft tissue biomechanics.
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