Background and objectives: Ear cartilage malformations are commonly encountered problems in reconstructive surgery, since cartilage has low self-regenerating capacity. Malformations that impose psychological and social burden on one's life are currently treated using ear prosthesis, synthetic implants or autologous flaps from rib cartilage. These approaches are challenging because not only they request high surgical expertise, but also they lack flexibility and induce severe donor-site morbidity. Through the last decade, tissue engineering gained attention where it aims at regenerating human tissues or organs in order to restore normal functions. This technique consists of three main elements, cells, growth factors, and above all, a scaffold that supports cells and guides their behavior. Several studies have investigated different scaffolds prepared from both synthetic or natural materials and their effects on cellular differentiation and behavior.
Methods and results: In this study, we investigated a natural scaffold (alginate) as tridimensional hydrogel seeded with progenitors from different origins such as bone marrow, perichondrium and dental pulp. In contact with the scaffold, these cells remained viable and were able to differentiate into chondrocytes when cultured in vitro. Quantitative and qualitative results show the presence of different chondrogenic markers as well as elastic ones for the purpose of ear cartilage, upon different culture conditions.
Conclusions: We confirmed that auricular perichondrial cells outperform other cells to produce chondrogenic tissue in normal oxygen levels and we report for the first time the effect of hypoxia on these cells. Our results provide updates for cartilage engineering for future clinical applications.
Keywords: Cartilage engineering; Chondrogenesis; Hypoxia; Stem cells.