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Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2011 May;14(5):425-32. doi: 10.1080/10255842.2011.554409.

A reaction-diffusion model to predict the influence of neo-matrix on the subsequent development of tissue-engineered cartilage.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands.


Extracellular matrix (ECM) in chondrocytes-seeded agarose aggregates to form islands of matrix. These islands need to coalesce to develop functional cartilage. Hence, macroscopic properties are determined by transport and aggregation of macromolecules at the microscale, which varies temporally and spatially. This study evaluates the importance of the mutual interaction between matrix components and matrix development. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching measurements demonstrates that diffusivity depends on the presence and density of ECM. A reaction-diffusion model describing synthesis, transport and immobilisation of ECM predicts steep gradients in ECM around chondrocytes, resembling histology. Steric hindrance of diffusion by ECM is essential for the formation of these gradients. Finally, microscopic ECM concentration is linked with macroscopic mechanical properties. Construct softening is predicted when temporal and spatial variations in diffusivity are considered. In conclusion, non-constant diffusion renders significant effects on both the microscopic ECM development and the macroscopic mechanical properties of developing tissue-engineered cartilage.

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