Tissue engineering may provide a technique to generate cartilage grafts for laryngotracheal reconstruction in children. The present study used a rabbit model to characterize cartilage generated by a candidate tissue engineering approach to determine, under baseline conditions, which chondrocytes in the rabbit produce tissue-engineered cartilage suitable for in vivo testing in laryngotracheal reconstruction. We characterized tissue-engineered cartilage generated in perfused bioreactor chambers from three sources of rabbit chondrocytes: articular, auricular, and nasal cartilage. Biomechanical testing and histological, immunohistochemical, and biochemical assays were performed to determine equilibrium unconfined compression (Young's) modulus, and biochemical composition and structure. We found that cartilage samples generated from articular or nasal chondrocytes lacked the mechanical integrity and stiffness necessary for completion of the biomechanical testing, but five of six auricular samples completed the biomechanical testing (moduli of 210 ± 93 kPa in two samples at 3 weeks and 100 ± 65 kPa in three samples at 6 weeks). Auricular samples showed more consistent staining for proteoglycans and collagen II and had significantly higher glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content and concentration and higher collagen content than articular or nasal samples. In addition, the delayed gadolinium enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) method revealed variations in GAG spatial distribution in auricular samples that were not present in articular or nasal samples. The results indicate that, for the candidate tissue engineering approach under baseline conditions, only rabbit auricular chondrocytes produce tissue-engineered cartilage suitable for in vivo testing in laryngotracheal reconstruction. The results also suggest that this and similar tissue engineering approaches must be optimized for each potential source of chondrocytes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cell Biology