Bioact Mater. 2022 Oct 12;22:312-324. doi: 10.1016/j.bioactmat.2022.10.010. eCollection 2023 Apr.
Functional tissue engineering strategies provide innovative approach for the repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage. Hydrogel is widely used because it could provide rapid defect filling and proper structure support, and is biocompatible for cell aggregation and matrix deposition. Efforts have been made to seek suitable scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering. Here Alg-DA/Ac-β-CD/gelatin hydrogel was designed with the features of physical and chemical multiple crosslinking and self-healing properties. Gelation time, swelling ratio, biodegradability and biocompatibility of the hydrogels were systematically characterized, and the injectable self-healing adhesive hydrogel were demonstrated to exhibit ideal properties for cartilage repair. Furthermore, the new hydrogel design introduces a pre-gel state before photo-crosslinking, where increased viscosity and decreased fluidity allow the gel to remain in a semi-solid condition. This granted multiple administration routes to the hydrogels, which brings hydrogels the ability to adapt to complex clinical situations. Pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) have been recognized as a promising solution to various health problems owing to their noninvasive properties and therapeutic potentials. PEMF treatment offers a better clinical outcome with fewer, if any, side effects, and wildly used in musculoskeletal tissue repair. Thereby we propose PEMF as an effective biophysical stimulation to be 4th key element in cartilage tissue engineering. In this study, the as-prepared Alg-DA/Ac-β-CD/gelatin hydrogels were utilized in the rat osteochondral defect model, and the potential application of PEMF in cartilage tissue engineering were investigated. PEMF treatment were proven to enhance the quality of engineered chondrogenic constructs in vitro, and facilitate chondrogenesis and cartilage repair in vivo. All of the results suggested that with the injectable self-healing adhesive hydrogel and PEMF treatment, this newly proposed tissue engineering strategy revealed superior clinical potential for cartilage defect treatment.