Current clinical methods to treat articular cartilage lesions provide temporary relief of the symptoms but fail to permanently restore the damaged tissue. Tissue engineering, using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) combined with scaffolds and bioactive factors, is viewed as a promising method for repairing cartilage injuries. However, current tissue engineered constructs display inferior mechanical properties compared to native articular cartilage, which could be attributed to the lack of structural organization of the extracellular matrix (ECM) of these engineered constructs in comparison to the highly oriented structure of articular cartilage ECM. We previously showed that we can guide MSCs undergoing chondrogenesis to align using microscale guidance channels on the surface of a two-dimensional (2-D) collagen scaffold, which resulted in the deposition of aligned ECM within the channels and enhanced mechanical properties of the constructs. In this study, we developed a technique to roll 2-D collagen scaffolds containing MSCs within guidance channels in order to produce a large-scale, three-dimensional (3-D) tissue engineered cartilage constructs with enhanced mechanical properties compared to current constructs. After rolling the MSC-scaffold constructs into a 3-D cylindrical structure, the constructs were cultured for 21 days under chondrogenic culture conditions. The microstructure architecture and mechanical properties of the constructs were evaluated using imaging and compressive testing. Histology and immunohistochemistry of the constructs showed extensive glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen type II deposition. Second harmonic generation imaging and Picrosirius red staining indicated alignment of neo-collagen fibers within the guidance channels of the constructs. Mechanical testing indicated that constructs containing the guidance channels displayed enhanced compressive properties compared to control constructs without these channels. In conclusion, using a novel roll-up method, we have developed large scale MSC based tissue-engineered cartilage that shows microscale structural organization and enhanced compressive properties compared to current tissue engineered constructs. Statement of significance Tissue engineered cartilage constructs made with human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs), scaffolds and bioactive factors are a promising solution to treat cartilage defects. A major disadvantage of these constructs is their inferior mechanical properties compared to the native tissue, which is likely due to the lack of structural organization of the extracellular matrix of the engineered constructs. In this study, we developed three-dimensional (3-D) cartilage constructs from rectangular scaffold sheets containing hMSCs in micro-guidance channels and characterized their mechanical properties and metabolic requirements. The work led to a novel roll-up method to embed 2-D microscale structures in 3-D constructs. Further, micro-guidance channels incorporated within the 3-D cartilage constructs led to the production of aligned cell-produced matrix and enhanced mechanical function.
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