Orthopedic tissue regeneration: cells, scaffolds, and small molecules

Drug Deliv Transl Res. 2016 Apr;6(2):105-20. doi: 10.1007/s13346-015-0266-7.


Orthopedic tissue regeneration would benefit the aging population or patients with degenerative bone and cartilage diseases, especially osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Despite progress in surgical and pharmacological interventions, new regenerative approaches are needed to meet the challenge of creating bone and articular cartilage tissues that are not only structurally sound but also functional, primarily to maintain mechanical integrity in their high load-bearing environments. In this review, we discuss new advances made in exploiting the three classes of materials in bone and cartilage regenerative medicine--cells, biomaterial-based scaffolds, and small molecules--and their successes and challenges reported in the clinic. In particular, the focus will be on the development of tissue-engineered bone and cartilage ex vivo by combining stem cells with biomaterials, providing appropriate structural, compositional, and mechanical cues to restore damaged tissue function. In addition, using small molecules to locally promote regeneration will be discussed, with potential approaches that combine bone and cartilage targeted therapeutics for the orthopedic-related disease, especially osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Keywords: Bone; Cartilage; Osteoarthritis; Osteoporosis; Scaffolds; Small molecules; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials / therapeutic use*
  • Bone Regeneration / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / therapy*
  • Regenerative Medicine
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology
  • Stem Cell Transplantation*
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Tissue Scaffolds


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Small Molecule Libraries