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      Matrix Development in Self-Assembly of Articular Cartilage


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          Articular cartilage is a highly functional tissue which covers the ends of long bones and serves to ensure proper joint movement. A tissue engineering approach that recapitulates the developmental characteristics of articular cartilage can be used to examine the maturation and degeneration of cartilage and produce fully functional neotissue replacements for diseased tissue.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          This study examined the development of articular cartilage neotissue within a self-assembling process in two phases. In the first phase, articular cartilage constructs were examined at 1, 4, 7, 10, 14, 28, 42, and 56 days immunohistochemically, histologically, and through biochemical analysis for total collagen and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content. Based on statistical changes in GAG and collagen levels, four time points from the first phase (7, 14, 28, and 56 days) were chosen to carry into the second phase, where the constructs were studied in terms of their mechanical characteristics, relative amounts of collagen types II and VI, and specific GAG types (chondroitin 4-sulfate, chondroitin 6-sulfate, dermatan sulfate, and hyaluronan). Collagen type VI was present in initial abundance and then localized to a pericellular distribution at 4 wks. N-cadherin activity also spiked at early stages of neotissue development, suggesting that self-assembly is mediated through a minimization of free energy. The percentage of collagen type II to total collagen significantly increased over time, while the proportion of collagen type VI to total collagen decreased between 1 and 2 wks. The chondroitin 6- to 4- sulfate ratio decreased steadily during construct maturation. In addition, the compressive properties reached a plateau and tensile characteristics peaked at 4 wks.


          The indices of cartilage formation examined in this study suggest that tissue maturation in self-assembled articular cartilage mirrors known developmental processes for native tissue. In terms of tissue engineering, it is suggested that exogenous stimulation may be necessary after 4 wks to further augment the functionality of developing constructs.

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          Most cited references 67

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          The differential adhesion hypothesis: a direct evaluation.

          The differential adhesion hypothesis (DAH), advanced in the 1960s, proposed that the liquid-like tissue-spreading and cell segregation phenomena of development arise from tissue surface tensions that in turn arise from differences in intercellular adhesiveness. Our earlier measurements of liquid-like cell aggregate surface tensions have shown that, without exception, a cell aggregate of lower surface tension tends to envelop one of higher surface tension to which it adheres. We here measure the surface tensions of L cell aggregates transfected to express N-, P- or E-cadherin in varied, measured amounts. We report that in these aggregates, in which cadherins are essentially the only cell-cell adhesion molecules, the aggregate surface tensions are a direct, linear function of cadherin expression level. Taken together with our earlier results, the conclusion follows that the liquid-like morphogenetic cell and tissue rearrangements of cell sorting, tissue spreading and segregation represent self-assembly processes guided by the diminution of adhesive-free energy as cells tend to maximize their mutual binding. This conclusion relates to the physics governing these morphogenetic phenomena and applies independently of issues such as the specificities of intercellular adhesives.
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            Proteoglycans as modulators of growth factor activities.

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              Interspecies comparisons of in situ intrinsic mechanical properties of distal femoral cartilage.

              We measured the in situ biomechanical properties of knee joint cartilage from five species (bovine, canine, human, monkey, and rabbit) to examine the biomechanical relevance of animal models of human knee joint injuries and osteoarthritis. In situ biphasic creep indentation experiments were performed to simultaneously determine all three intrinsic material coefficients (aggregate modulus, Poisson's ratio, and permeability) of the cartilage as represented by the linear KLM biphasic model. In addition, we also assessed the effects of load bearing on these intrinsic properties at "high" and "low" weight-bearing regions on the distal femur. Our results indicate that significant differences exist in some of these material properties among species and sites. The aggregate modulus of the anterior patellar groove within each species is the lowest among all sites tested, and the permeability of the patellar groove cartilage is the highest and does not vary among species. Similarly, the Poison's ratio in the patellar groove is the lowest in all species, except in the rabbit. These results lead to the conclusion that patellar groove cartilage can undergo greater and faster compression. Thus, under high compressive loads, the cartilage of the patellar groove surface can more rapidly compress to create a congruent patellofemoral joint articulation. For any given location, no differences were found in the aggregate modulus among all the species, and no correlation was found between aggregate modulus and thickness at the test site. Thus, in the process of selecting a suitable experimental animal model of human articular cartilage, it is essential to consider the significant interspecies differences of the mechanical properties.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                30 July 2008
                : 3
                : 7
                Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, Houston, Texas, United States of America
                Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States of America
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: GO CMR JCH KAA. Performed the experiments: GO CMR DDA. Analyzed the data: GO CMR DDA KJGA. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: GO KJGA. Wrote the paper: GO KAA.

                Ofek et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 10
                Research Article
                Rheumatology/Cartilage Biology and Osteoarthritis
                Rheumatology/Orthopedics and Sports Medicine



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