There is a paucity of in vivo studies that investigate the safety and efficacy of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) tissue regeneration approaches, in part due to the lack of established animal models. Review of disease models for study of TMJ is presented herein with an attempt to identify relevant preclinical animal models for TMJ tissue engineering, with emphasis on the disc and condyle. Although degenerative joint disease models have been mainly performed on mice, rats, and rabbits, preclinical regeneration approaches must employ larger animal species. There remains controversy regarding the preferred choice of larger animal models between the farm pig, minipig, goat, sheep, and dog. The advantages of the pig and minipig include their well characterized anatomy, physiology, and tissue properties. The advantages of the sheep and goat are their easier surgical access, low cost per animal, and its high tissue availability. The advantage of the dog is that the joint space is confined, so migration of interpositional devices should be less likely. However, each species has limitations as well. For example, the farm pig has continuous growth until about 18 months of age, and difficult surgical access due to the zygomatic arch covering the lateral aspect of joint. The minipig is not widely available and somewhat costly. The sheep and the goat are herbivores, and their TMJs mainly function in translation. The dog is a carnivore, and the TMJ is a hinge joint that can only rotate. Although no species provides the gold standard for all preclinical TMJ tissue engineering approaches, the goat and sheep have emerged as the leading options, with the minipig as the choice when cost is less of a limitation; and with the dog and farm pig serving as acceptable alternatives. Finally, naturally occurring TMJ disorders in domestic species may be harnessed on a preclinical trial basis as a clinically relevant platform for translation.
Keywords: TMJ; animal models; temporomandibular joint; tissue engineering.