Toward developing engineered cartilage for the treatment of cartilage defects, achieving relevant functional properties before implantation remains a significant challenge. Various chemical and mechanical stimuli have been used to enhance the functional properties of engineered musculoskeletal tissues. Recently, Ca2+-modulating agents have been used to enhance matrix synthesis and biomechanical properties of engineered cartilage. The objective of this study was to determine whether other known Ca2+ modulators, digoxin and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), can be employed as novel stimuli to increase collagen synthesis and functional properties of engineered cartilage. Neocartilage constructs were formed by scaffold-free self-assembling of primary bovine articular chondrocytes. Digoxin, ATP, or both agents were added to the culture medium for 1 h/day on days 10-14. After 4 weeks of culture, neocartilage properties were assessed for gross morphology, biochemical composition, and biomechanical properties. Digoxin and ATP were found to increase neocartilage collagen content by 52-110% over untreated controls, while maintaining proteoglycan content near native tissue values. Furthermore, digoxin and ATP increased the tensile modulus by 280% and 180%, respectively, while the application of both agents increased the modulus by 380%. The trends in tensile properties were found to correlate with the amount of collagen cross-linking. Live Ca2+ imaging experiments revealed that both digoxin and ATP were able to increase Ca2+ oscillations in monolayer-cultured chondrocytes. This study provides a novel approach toward directing neocartilage maturation and enhancing its functional properties using novel Ca2+ modulators.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering