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J Orthop Translat. 2018 Oct 14;17:26-41. doi: 10.1016/ eCollection 2019 Apr.

Natural hydrogels for cartilage regeneration: Modification, preparation and application.

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School of Mechanical Engineering, Southeast University, Nanjing, China.
Department of Sports Medicine and Adult Reconstructive Surgery, Drum Tower Hospital Affiliated to Medical School of Nanjing University, Nanjing, China.
Drum Tower of Clinical Medicine, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China.
School of Electrical and Automation Engineering, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China.


Hydrogels, consisting of hydrophilic polymers, can be used as films, scaffolds, nanoparticles and drug carriers. They are one of the hot research topics in material science and tissue engineering and are widely used in the field of biomedical and biological sciences. Researchers are seeking for a type of material that is similar to human tissues and can partially replace human tissues or organs. The hydrogel has brought possibility to solve this problem. It has good biocompatibility and biodegradability. After entering the body, it does not cause immune and toxic reactions. The degradation time can be controlled, and the degradation products are nontoxic and nonimmunogenic; the final metabolites can be excreted outside the body. Owing to the lack of blood vessels and poor migration ability of chondrocytes, the self-healing ability of damaged cartilage is limited. Tissue engineering has brought a new direction for the regeneration of cartilage. Drug carriers and scaffolds made of hydrogels are widely used in cartilage tissue engineering. The present review introduces the natural hydrogels, which are often used for cartilage tissue engineering with respect to synthesis, modification and application methods.

The translational potential of this article:

This review introduces the natural hydrogels that are often used in cartilage tissue engineering with respect to synthesis, modification and application methods. Furthermore, the essential concepts and recent discoveries were demonstrated to illustrate the achievable goals and the current limitations. In addition, we propose the putative challenges and directions for the use of natural hydrogels in cartilage regeneration.


Alginate; Chitosan; Collagen; Gelatin; Hyaluronan; Natural hydrogel

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