Theses Doctoral

Modulation of the in vitro mechanical and chemical environment for the optimization of tissue-engineered articular cartilage

Roach, Brendan Leigh

Articular cartilage is the connective tissue lining the ends of long bones, providing a dynamic surface that bears load while providing a smooth surface for articulation. When damaged, however, this tissue exhibits a poor capacity for repair, lacking the lymphatics and vasculature necessary for remodeling. Osteoarthritis (OA), a growing health and economic burden, is the most common disease afflicting the knee joint. Impacting nearly thirty million Americans and responsible for approximately $90 billion in total annual costs, this disease is characterized by a progressive loss of cartilage accompanied by joint pain and dysfunction. Moreover, while generally considered to be a disease of the elderly (65 years and up), evidence suggests the disease may be traced to joint injuries in young, active individuals, of whom nearly 50% will develop signs of OA within 20 years of the injury. For these reasons, significant research efforts are directed at developing tissue-engineered cartilage as a cell-based approach to articular cartilage repair. Clinical success, however, will depend on the ability of tissue-engineered cartilage to survive and thrive in a milieu of harsh mechanical and chemical agents.
To this end, previous work in our laboratory has focused on growing tissues appropriate for repair of focal defects and entire articular surfaces, thereby investigating the role of mechanical and chemical stimuli in tissue development. While we have had success at producing replacement tissues with certain qualities appropriate for clinical function, engineered cartilage capable of withstanding the full range of insults in vivo has yet to be developed. For this reason, and in an effort to address this shortcoming, the work described in this dissertation aims to (1) further characterize and (2) optimize the response of tissue-engineered cartilage to physical loading and the concomitant chemical insult found in the injured or diseased diarthrodial joint, as well as (3) provide a clinically relevant strategy for joint resurfacing. Together, this holistic approach maximizes the chances for in vivo success of tissue-engineered cartilage.
Regular joint movement and dynamic loads are important for the maintenance of healthy articular cartilage. Extensive work has been done demonstrating the impact of mechanical load on the composition of the extracellular matrix and the biosynthetic activity of resident chondrocytes in explant cultures as well as in tissue-engineered cartilage. In further characterizing the response of tissue-engineered cartilage to mechanical load, the work in this dissertation demonstrated the impact of displacement-controlled and load-controlled stimulation on the mechanical and biochemical properties of engineered cartilage. Additionally, these studies captured tension-compression nonlinearity in tissue-engineered cartilage, highlighting the role of the proteoglycan-collagen network in the ability to withstand dynamic loads in vivo, and optimized a commercial bioreactor for use with engineered cartilage.
The deleterious chemical environment of the diseased joint is also well investigated. It is therefore essential to consider the impact of pro-inflammatory cytokines on the mechanical and biochemical development of tissue-engineered cartilage, as chemical injury is known to promote degradation of extracellular matrix constituents and ultimately failure of the tissue. Combining expertise in interleukin-1\alpha, dexamethasone, and drug delivery systems, a dexamethasone drug delivery system was developed and demonstrated to provide chondroprotection for tissue-engineered cartilage in the presence of supraphysiologic doses of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These results highlight the clinical relevance of this approach and indicate potential success as a therapeutic strategy.
Clinical success, however, will not only be determined by the mechanical and biochemical properties of tissue-engineered cartilage. For engineered cartilage to bear loads in vivo, it is necessary to match the natural topology of the articular surface, recapitulating normal contact geometries and load distribution across the joint. To ensure success, a method for fabricating a bilayered engineered construct with biofidelic cartilage and subchondral bone curvatures was developed. This approach aims to create a cell-based cartilage replacement that restores joint congruencies, normalizes load distributions across the joint, and serves as a potential platform for the repair of both focal defects and full joint surfaces.
The research described in this dissertation more fully characterizes the benefits of mechanical stimulation, prescribes a method for chondroprotection in vivo, and provides a strategy for creating a cartilage replacement that perfectly matches the native architecture of the knee, thus laying the groundwork for clinical success of tissue-engineered cartilage.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Hung, Clark T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 6, 2017