Tissue Engineering Cartilage with a Composite Electrospun and Hydrogel Scaffold

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Virginia Tech


Osteoarthritis is the most prevalent musculoskeletal disease in humans, severely reducing the standard of living of millions of people. Osteoarthritis is characterized by degeneration and loss of articular cartilage which leads to pain, and loss of joint motility and function. Individuals suffering from severe osteoarthritis are commonly treated with full knee replacements. The procedure does eliminate the problem of degrading cartilage tissue; however, it does not fully restore function and its lifetime can be limited. To overcome the disadvantages of current treatments, tissue engineering has become a focus of research to regenerate cartilage. Tissue engineering attempts to repair or replace damaged tissue with cells, biomaterials, and/or molecular signals. Biodegradable scaffolds serve as a temporary replacement for the tissue until it has regenerated. Two types of scaffolds that have been used in tissue engineering are electrospun scaffolds and hydrogels. We have proposed and fabricated a scaffold for cartilage tissue engineering that incorporates an electrospun cylinder and a thermosetting hydrogel in order to provide improved properties compared to either individual material.

Electrospun cylinders were created by sintering electrospun mats that include salt pores. The addition of salt pores decreased the mechanical properties of the electrospun materials while also improving the capability of cells to infiltrate into the scaffold. The sintering process involved the connecting of one electrospun mat to an adjacent one. Specifically, poly(d,l-lactide) was capable of sintering to an adjacent electrospun mat when exposed to either heat (near the glass transition temperature) or tetrahydrofuran vapor. The sintering process did not deteriorate the structure or function of the electrospun material. Sintering allowed the creation of unique structures of electrospun material that previously could not be produced.

A thermosetting hydrogel was added to the scaffold to replicate the function of proteoglycans present in articular cartilage. A composite scaffold of electrospun polymer and hydrogel showed improved mechanical properties and better integration of the scaffold in vivo compared to an electrospun scaffold with no hydrogel. In conclusion, the composite electrospun and hydrogel scaffold could become an excellent tissue engineering scaffold to treat patients suffering from osteoarthritis.



electrospinning, hydrogel, scaffold, tissue engineering, cartilage