Scaffold contraction is a common but underestimated problem in the field of tissue engineering. It becomes particularly problematic when creating anatomically complex shapes such as the ear. The aim of this study was to develop a contraction-free biocompatible scaffold construct for ear cartilage tissue engineering. To address this aim, we used three constructs: (i) a fibrin/hyaluronic acid (FB/HA) hydrogel, (ii) a FB/HA hydrogel combined with a collagen I/III scaffold, and (iii) a cage construct containing (ii) surrounded by a 3D-printed poly-ϵ-caprolactone mold. A wide range of different cell types were tested within these constructs, including chondrocytes, perichondrocytes, adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells, and their combinations. After in vitro culturing for 1, 14, and 28 days, all constructs were analyzed. Macroscopic observation showed severe contraction of the cell-seeded hydrogel (i). This could be prevented, in part, by combining the hydrogel with the collagen scaffold (ii) and prevented in total using the 3D-printed cage construct (iii). (Immuno)histological analysis, multiphoton laser scanning microscopy, and biomechanical analysis showed extracellular matrix deposition and increased Young's modulus and thereby the feasibility of ear cartilage engineering. These results demonstrated that the 3D-printed cage construct is an adequate model for contraction-free ear cartilage engineering using a range of cell combinations.
Visscher, D. O., Bos, E. J., Peeters, M., Kuzmin, N. V., Groot, M. L., Helder, M. N., & van Zuijlen, P. P. M. (2016). Cartilage Tissue Engineering: Preventing Tissue Scaffold Contraction Using a 3D-Printed Polymeric Cage. Tissue Engineering Part C. Methods, 22(6), 573-584. https://doi.org/10.1089/ten.tec.2016.0073