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Tissue Eng Part A. 2010 Apr;16(4):1339-48. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2009.0442.

Self-assembly of aligned tissue-engineered annulus fibrosus and intervertebral disc composite via collagen gel contraction.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University , Ithaca, NY, USA.


Many cartilaginous tissues such as intervertebral disc (IVD) display a heterogeneous collagen microstructure that results in mechanical anisotropy. These structures are responsible for mechanical function of the tissue and regulate cellular interactions and metabolic responses of cells embedded within these tissues. Using collagen gels seeded with ovine annulus fibrosus cells, constructs of varying structure and heterogeneity were created to mimic the circumferential alignment of the IVD. Alignment was induced within gels by contracting annular gels around an inner boundary using both a polyethylene center and alginate center to create a composite engineered IVD. Collagen alignment and heterogeneity were measured using second harmonic generation microscopy. Decreasing initial collagen density from 2.5 mg/mL to 1 mg/mL produced greater contraction of constructs, resulting in gels that were 55% and 6.2% of the original area after culture, respectively. As a result, more alignment occurred in annular-shaped 1 mg/mL gels compared with 2.5 mg/mL gels (p < 0.05). This alignment was also produced in a composite-engineered IVD with alginate nucleus pulposus. The resulting collagen alignment could promote further aligned collagen development necessary for the creation of a mechanically functional tissue-engineered IVD.

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