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Biomechanical evaluation of suture-holding properties of native and tissue-engineered articular cartilage.


The purpose of this study was to determine suture-holding properties of tissue-engineered neocartilage relative to native articular cartilage. To this end, suture pull-out strength was quantified for native articular cartilage and for neocartilages possessing various mechanical properties. Suture-holding properties were examined in vitro and in vivo. Neocartilage from bovine chondrocytes was engineered using two sets of exogenous stimuli, resulting in neotissue of different biochemical compositions. Compressive and tensile properties and glycosaminoglycan, collagen, and pyridinoline cross-link contents were assayed (study 1). Suture pull-out strength was compared between neocartilage constructs, and bovine and leporine native cartilage. Uniaxial pull-out test until failure was performed after passing 6-0 Vicryl through each tissue (study 2). Subsequently, neocartilage was implanted into a rabbit model to examine short-term suture-holding ability in vivo (study 3). Neocartilage glycosaminoglycan and collagen content per wet weight reached 4.55 ± 1.62% and 4.21 ± 0.77%, respectively. Tensile properties for neocartilage constructs reached 2.6 ± 0.77% MPa for Young's modulus and 1.39 ± 0.63 MPa for ultimate tensile strength. Neocartilage reached ~ 33% of suture pull-out strength of native articular cartilage. Neocartilage cross-link content reached 50% of native values, and suture pull-out strength correlated positively with cross-link content (R² = 0.74). Neocartilage sutured into rabbit osteochondral defects was successfully maintained for 3 weeks. This study shows that pyridinoline cross-links in neocartilage may be vital in controlling suture pull-out strength. Neocartilage produced in vitro with one-third of native tissue pull-out strength appears sufficient for construct suturing and retention in vivo.

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