Hyaluronic Acid-Based Shape-Memory Cryogel Scaffolds for Focal Cartilage Defect Repair.


He T(1), Li B(1), Colombani T(2), Joshi-Navare K(2), Mehta S(1), Kisiday J(3), Bencherif SA(1)(2), Bajpayee AG(1)(4).
Author information:
(1)Department of Bioengineering and Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
(2)Department of Chemical Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
(3)Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.
(4)Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Traumatic joint injuries can result in significant cartilage defects, which can greatly increase the risk of osteoarthritis development. Due to the limited self-healing capacity of avascular cartilage, tissue engineering approaches are required for filling defects and promoting cartilage regeneration. Current approaches utilize invasive surgical procedures for extraction and implantation of autologous chondrocytes; therefore, injectable biomaterials have gained interest to minimize the risk of infection as well as patient pain and discomfort. In this study, we engineered biomimetic, hyaluronic acid (HA)-based cryogel scaffolds that possess shape-memory properties as they contract and regain their shape after syringe injection to noninvasively fill cartilage defects. The cryogels, fabricated with HA and glycidyl methacrylate at -20°C, resulted in an elastic, macroporous, and highly interconnected network that provided a conducive microenvironment for chondrocytes to remain viable and metabolically active after injection through a syringe needle. Chondrocytes seeded within cryogels and cultured for 15 days exhibited enhanced cell proliferation, metabolism, and production of cartilage extracellular matrix glycosaminoglycans compared with HA-based hydrogels. Furthermore, immunohistochemical staining revealed production of collagen type II from chondrocyte-seeded cryogels, indicating the maintenance of cell phenotype. These results demonstrate the potential of chondrocyte-seeded, HA-based, injectable cryogel scaffolds to promote regeneration of cartilage tissue for nonsurgically invasive defect repair. Impact statement Hyaluronic acid-based shape-memory cryogels provide a conducive microenvironment for chondrocyte adhesion, proliferation, and matrix biosynthesis for use in repair of cartilage defects. Due to their sponge-like elastic properties, cryogels can fully recover their original shape back after injection while not impacting metabolism or viability of encapsulated cells. Clinically, they provide an opportunity for filling focal cartilage defects by using a single, minimally invasive injection of a cell encapsulating biocompatible three-dimensional scaffold that can return to its original structure to fit the defect geometry and enable matrix regeneration.