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Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2014 Jun;20(6):506-13. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2013.0216. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

Computed tomography-guided tissue engineering of upper airway cartilage.

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1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering, Cornell University , Ithaca, New York.


Normal laryngeal function has a large impact on quality of life, and dysfunction can be life threatening. In general, airway obstructions arise from a reduction in neuromuscular function or a decrease in mechanical stiffness of the structures of the upper airway. These reductions decrease the ability of the airway to resist inspiratory or expiratory pressures, causing laryngeal collapse. We propose to restore airway patency through methods that replace damaged tissue and improve the stiffness of airway structures. A number of recent studies have utilized image-guided approaches to create cell-seeded constructs that reproduce the shape and size of the tissue of interest with high geometric fidelity. The objective of the present study was to establish a tissue engineering approach to the creation of viable constructs that approximate the shape and size of equine airway structures, in particular the epiglottis. Computed tomography images were used to create three-dimensional computer models of the cartilaginous structures of the larynx. Anatomically shaped injection molds were created from the three-dimensional models and were seeded with bovine auricular chondrocytes that were suspended within alginate before static culture. Constructs were then cultured for approximately 4 weeks post-seeding and evaluated for biochemical content, biomechanical properties, and histologic architecture. Results showed that the three-dimensional molded constructs had the approximate size and shape of the equine epiglottis and that it is possible to seed such constructs while maintaining 75%+ cell viability. Extracellular matrix content was observed to increase with time in culture and was accompanied by an increase in the mechanical stiffness of the construct. If successful, such an approach may represent a significant improvement on the currently available treatments for damaged airway cartilage and may provide clinical options for replacement of damaged tissue during treatment of obstructive airway disease.

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