In Vitro Cartilage Regeneration with a Three-Dimensional Polyglycolic Acid (PGA) Implant in a Bovine Cartilage Punch Model

Resorbable polyglycolic acid (PGA) chondrocyte grafts are clinically established for human articular cartilage defects. Long-term implant performance was addressed in a standardized in vitro model. PGA implants (+/− bovine chondrocytes) were placed inside cartilage rings punched out of bovine femoral trochleas (outer Ø 6 mm; inner defect Ø 2 mm) and cultured for 84 days (12 weeks). Cartilage/PGA hybrids were subsequently analyzed by histology (hematoxylin/eosin; safranin O), immunohistochemistry (aggrecan, collagens 1 and 2), protein assays, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactions, and implant push-out force measurements. Cartilage/PGA hybrids remained vital with intact matrix until 12 weeks, limited loss of proteoglycans from “host” cartilage or cartilage–PGA interface, and progressively diminishing release of proteoglycans into the supernatant. By contrast, the collagen 2 content in cartilage and cartilage–PGA interface remained approximately constant during culture (with only little collagen 1). Both implants (+/− cells) displayed implant colonization and progressively increased aggrecan and collagen 2 mRNA, but significantly decreased push-out forces over time. Cell-loaded PGA showed significantly accelerated cell colonization and significantly extended deposition of aggrecan. Augmented chondrogenic differentiation in PGA and cartilage/PGA-interface for up to 84 days suggests initial cartilage regeneration. Due to the PGA resorbability, however, the model exhibits limitations in assessing the “lateral implant bonding”.


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