Cartilage has limited self-repair ability. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of different species of collagen-engineered neocartilage for the treatment of critical-size defects in the articular joint in a rabbit model. Type II and I collagen obtained from rabbits and rats was mixed to form a scaffold. The type II/I collagen scaffold was then mixed with rabbit chondrocytes to biofabricate neocartilage constructs using a rotating cell culture system [three-dimensional (3D)-bioreactor]. The rabbit chondrocytes were mixed with rabbit collagen scaffold and rat collagen scaffold to form neoRBT (neo-rabbit cartilage) and neoRAT (neo-rat cartilage) constructs, respectively. The neocartilage matrix constructs were implanted into surgically created defects in rabbit knee chondyles, and histological examinations were performed after 2 and 3 months. Cartilage-like lacunae formation surrounding the chondrocytes was noted in the cell cultures. After 3 months, both the neoRBT and neoRAT groups showed cartilage-like repair tissue covering the 5-mm circular, 4-mm-deep defects that were created in the rabbit condyle and filled with neocartilage plugs. Reparative chondrocytes were aligned as apparent clusters in both the neoRAT and neoRBT groups. Both neoRBT and neoRAT cartilage repair demonstrated integration with healthy adjacent tissue; however, more integration was obtained using the neoRAT cartilage. Our data indicate that different species of type II/I collagen matrix and 3D bioreactor cultivation can facilitate cartilage engineering in vitro for the repair of critical-size defect.
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