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Tissue Eng Part A. 2008 Jun;14(6):1067-80. doi: 10.1089/ten.tea.2007.0193.

Tissue engineering for total meniscal substitution: animal study in sheep model.

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Laboratorio di Biomeccanica, Rizzoli Orthopedic Institute, Bologna, Italy.



The aim of the study was to investigate the use of a novel hyaluronic acid/polycaprolactone material for meniscal tissue engineering and to evaluate the tissue regeneration after the augmentation of the implant with expanded autologous chondrocytes. Two different surgical implantation techniques in a sheep model were evaluated.


Twenty-four skeletally mature sheep were treated with total medial meniscus replacements, while two meniscectomies served as empty controls. The animals were divided into two groups: cell-free scaffold and scaffold seeded with autologous chondrocytes. Two different surgical techniques were compared: in 12 animals, the implant was sutured to the capsule and to the meniscal ligament; in the other 12 animals, also a transtibial fixation of the horns was used. The animals were euthanized after 4 months. The specimens were assessed by gross inspection and histology.


All implants showed excellent capsular ingrowth at the periphery. Macroscopically, no difference was observed between cell-seeded and cell-free groups. Better implant appearance and integrity was observed in the group without transosseous horns fixation. Using the latter implantation technique, lower joint degeneration was observed in the cell-seeded group with respect to cell-free implants. The histological analysis indicated cellular infiltration and vascularization throughout the implanted constructs. Cartilaginous tissue formation was significantly more frequent in the cell-seeded constructs.


The current study supports the potential of a novel HYAFF/polycaprolactone scaffold for total meniscal substitution. Seeding of the scaffolds with autologous chondrocytes provides some benefit in the extent of fibrocartilaginous tissue repair.

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