Using a self-assembly (SA), scaffoldless method, five high-density co-cultures with varied ratios of meniscal fibrochondrocytes (MFCs) and articular chondrocytes (ACs) were seeded into novel meniscus-specific, ring-shaped agarose wells. The following ratios of MFCs to ACs were used: 0% MFC, 25% MFC, 50% MFC, 75% MFC, and 100% MFC. Over 4 weeks, all ratios of cells self-assembled into three-dimensional constructs with varying mechanobiological and morphological properties. All groups stained for collagen II (Col II), and all groups except the 0% MFC group stained for collagen I (Col I). It was found that the tensile modulus was proportional to the percentage of MFCs employed. The 100% MFC group yielded the greatest mechanical stiffness with 432.2±47 kPa tensile modulus and an ultimate tensile strength of 23.7±2.4 kPa. On gross inspection, the 50% MFC constructs were the most similar to our idealized meniscus shape, our primary criterion. A second experiment was performed to examine the anisotropy of constructs as well as to directly compare the scaffoldless, SA method with a poly-glycolic acid (PGA) scaffold-based construct. When compared to PGA constructs, the SA groups were 2-4 times stiffer and stronger in tension. Further, at 8 weeks, SA groups exhibited circumferential fiber bundles similar to native tissue. When pulled in the circumferential direction, the SA group had significantly higher tensile modulus (226±76 kPa) than when pulled in the radial direction (67 ± 32 kPa). The PGA constructs had neither a directional collagen fiber orientation nor differences in mechanical properties in the radial or circumferential direction. It is suggested that the geometric constraint imposed by the ring-shaped, non-adhesive mold guides collagen fibril directionality and, thus, alters mechanical properties. Co-culturing ACs and MFCs in this manner appears to be a promising new method for tissue engineering fibrocartilaginous tissues exhibiting a spectrum of mechanical and biomechanical properties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology