Poly(L-Lactic acid) (PLLA)-based meniscus tissue engineering

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2011
Bahçecioğlu, Gökhan
Meniscus is a fibrocartilaginous tissue which plays an important role in joint stability, lubrication, and load bearing and transmission. Meniscal tears are commonly encountered in sports activities, or caused by degeneration of the cartilage with ageing. They lead to pain, loss of work, disturbed biomechanics of the knee and inability to walk or even move the legs. As the meniscal tissue is avascular in the inner portion, injury to this part does not heal by itself, and therefore treatments are needed. In some cases when complex tears occur, the tissue cannot be successfully treated with the conventional methods. Tissue engineering appears to be a promising alternative to treat such complex tears. It includes the application of cells on scaffolds (or cell carriers), and provision of bioactive agents to the site of injury in order to regenerate the damaged tissue. The cells and the bioactive agents are involved in the synthesis of the new tissue, while the scaffold acts as a support to guide the cells until the new tissue is formed, and it is slowly absorbed by the body leaving the new tissue behind. Thus, a natural tissue is generated at the end. Few studies have been reported on the tissue engineering of meniscus, but neither of them was able to completely mimic the meniscus structure, nor could they succeed in constructing scaffolds with sufficiently high tensile properties. In the current in vitro study, a novel 3D construct was proposed, in which the natural tissue is perfectly mimicked. The 3D construct consisted of aligned collagen fibers embedded within a foam network which stabilizes the structure. The foam was prepared by freezing a polymer solution with a certain concentration, and lyophilizing it. Aligned fibers were aimed to improve the tensile properties. The construct was impregnated in alginate gel, which was then crosslinked, to improve the compressive properties. The foam was prepared from (poly(L-lactic acid)/poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLLA/PLGA) solutions of various concentrations (2%, 2.5%, 3%, and 4% w/v) and at different freezing temperatures (-20oC or -80oC) to select the best preparation condition. After analysis of the microstructure and mechanical properties, foams prepared from 3% polymer solution frozen at -20oC were found to be the most appropriate for use as scaffold for the 3D construct, since they had large pores, high and interconnected porosity, as well as high mechanical strength. The 3D constructs were seeded with human meniscus cells and incubated for 21 days. Cell behavior on the constructs was examined. Cell attachment and proliferation was found to be better with the constructs not coated with alginate. However, the constructs coated with alginate demonstrated higher compressive strength. It was also found that incorporation of collagen fibers significantly improved the tensile properties. All the constructs were shown to lead to the production of extracellular components specific for fibrocartilages, and thus it was concluded that they were promising for use in meniscal replacement.

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Citation Formats
G. Bahçecioğlu, “Poly(L-Lactic acid) (PLLA)-based meniscus tissue engineering,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2011.