Current clinical treatments of osteochondral defects in articulating joints are frequently not successful in restoring articular surfaces. Novel scaffold-based tissue engineering strategies may help to improve current treatment options and foster a true regeneration of articulating structures. A frequently desired property of scaffolds is their ability to degrade over time and allow a full restoration of tissue and function. However, it remains largely unknown how scaffold degradation influences the mechanical stability of the tissue in a defect region and, in turn, the regenerative process. Such differing goals-supporting regeneration by degrading its own structure-can hardly be analyzed for tissue engineered constructs in clinical trials and in vivo preclinical experiments. Using an in silico analysis, we investigated the degradation-induced modifications in material and architectural properties of a scaffold with strut-like architecture over the healing course and their influence on the mechanics-dependent tissue formation in osteochondral defects. The repair outcome greatly varied depending on the degradation modality, i.e. surface erosion or bulk degradation with and without autocatalysis, and of the degradation speed, i.e. faster, equal or slower than the expected repair time. Bulk degradation with autocatalysis, independently of degradation speed, caused the mechanical failure of the scaffold prior to osteochondral defect repair and was thereby deemed inappropriate for further application. On the other hand, scaffolds with strut-like architecture degrading by both surface erosion and bulk degradation with slow degradation speed resulted in comparably good repair outcomes, thereby indicating such degradation modalities as favorable for the application in osteochondral defects.
Keywords: computer model; mechanobiolgy; osteochondral defect; scaffold degradation; tissue engineering.
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