Animal cells have served as highly controllable model systems for furthering cartilage tissue engineering practices in pursuit of treating osteoarthritis. Although successful strategies for animal cells must ultimately be adapted to human cells to be clinically relevant, human chondrocytes are rarely employed in such studies. In this study, we evaluated the applicability of culture techniques established for juvenile bovine and adult canine chondrocytes to human chondrocytes obtained from fresh or expired osteochondral allografts. Human chondrocytes were expanded and encapsulated in 2% agarose scaffolds measuring θ3-4 mm×2.3 mm, with cell seeding densities ranging from 15 to 90×106 cells/mL. Subsets of constructs were subjected to transient or sustained TGF-β treatment, or provided channels to enhance nutrient transport. Human cartilaginous constructs physically resembled native human cartilage, and reached compressive Young's moduli of up to ~250 kPa (corresponding to the low end of ranges reported for native knee cartilage), dynamic moduli of ~950 kPa (0.01 Hz), and contained 5.7% wet weight (%/ww) of glycosaminoglycans (≥ native levels) and 1.5%/ww collagen. We found that the initial seeding density had pronounced effects on tissue outcomes, with high cell seeding densities significantly increasing nearly all measured properties. Transient TGF-β treatment was ineffective for adult human cells, and tissue construct properties plateaued or declined beyond 28 days of culture. Finally, nutrient channels improved construct mechanical properties, presumably due to enhanced rates of mass transport. These results demonstrate that our previously established culture system can be successfully translated to human chondrocytes.
- Tissue Engineering