Unlike some tissues, cartilage cannot regenerate. It lacks blood vessels to support such repair. After injury or damage, cartilage degeneration progresses, leading to osteoarthritis, which affects approximately 27 million Americans.
"Medical intervention is the only way to regenerate osteochondral tissue," says Lesley Chow, assistant professor of Materials Science & Engineering and Bioengineering at Lehigh University. "To successfully regenerate this cartilage and make it functional, we must consider the fact that function is related to both the cartilage and the bone. If the cartilage doesn't have a good anchor, it's pointless. You could regenerate beautiful cartilage, but it won't last if it isn't anchored to that bone immediately beneath it."
This presents a huge engineering challenge, says Chow, as it's difficult to create one organ made up of two very different tissues. What is needed is a tissue engineering method that respects the multi-component and organizational nature of how tissues form in nature, she says, adding: "Then we'd have the ability to create something that's durable."
Chow has taken a major step in the field's efforts to address such a challenge. She and her team at The Chow Lab at Lehigh have demonstrated a new method to fabricate scaffolds presenting spatially organized cues to control cell behavior locally within one material. Their proof-of-concept paper, published in Biomaterials Science, is called: "3D printing with peptide-polymer conjugates for single-step fabrication of spatially functionalized scaffolds." This work was led by Lehigh graduate students Paula Camacho (Bioengineering) and Hafiz Busari (Materials Science & Engineering) with co-authors Kelly Seims (Materials Science & Engineering), Peter Schwarzenberg (Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics), and Hannah L. Dailey, assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics at Lehigh. Their publication shows how their platform can be used to create continuous, highly organized scaffolds to regenerate two different tissues, such as those found in the osteochondral interface.
Chow's lab creates biomaterial scaffolds made of biodegradable polymers, which are long chains of molecules that can degrade over time in the body. Scaffolds are widely-used in tissue engineering to provide cells with structural support, as well chemical cues that "tell" the cells what type of cell to become or tissue to form. Used in the early stages of tissue regeneration, scaffolds are designed to be implanted in the body and then degrade as new tissue forms.
"We believe this presents a versatile platform to generate multifunctional biomaterials that can mimic the biochemical organization found in native tissues to support functional regeneration," says Chow.
COMPAMED-tradefair.com; Source: Lehigh University