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Engineering a Fibrocartilage Spectrum through Modulation of Aggregate Redifferentiation


Expanded costochondral cells provide a clinically relevant cell source for engineering both fibrous and hyaline articular cartilage. Expanding chondrocytes in a monolayer results in a shift toward a proliferative, fibroblastic phenotype. Three-dimensional aggregate culture may, however, be used to recover chondrogenic matrix production. This study sought to engineer a spectrum of fibrous to hyaline neocartilage from a single cell source by varying the duration of three-dimensional culture following expansion. In third passage porcine costochondral cells, the effects of aggregate culture duration were assessed after 0, 8, 11, 14, and 21 days of aggregate culture and after 4 subsequent weeks of neocartilage formation. Varying the duration of aggregate redifferentiation generated a spectrum of fibrous to hyaline neocartilage. Within 8 days of aggregation, proliferation ceased, and collagen and glycosaminoglycan production increased, compared with monolayer cells. In self-assembled neocartilage, type II-to-I collagen ratio increased with increasing aggregate duration, yet glycosaminoglycan content varied minimally. Notably, 14 days of aggregate redifferentiation increased collagen content by 25%, tensile modulus by over 110%, and compressive moduli by over 50%, compared with tissue formed in the absence of redifferentiation. A spectrum of fibrous to hyaline cartilage was generated using a single, clinically relevant cell source, improving the translational potential of engineered cartilage.

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