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Published Online: 1 August 2017

Advances in Application of Mechanical Stimuli in Bioreactors for Cartilage Tissue Engineering

Publication: Tissue Engineering Part B: Reviews
Volume 23, Issue Number 4


Articular cartilage (AC) is the weight-bearing tissue in diarthroses. It lacks the capacity for self-healing once there are injuries or diseases due to its avascularity. With the development of tissue engineering, repairing cartilage defects through transplantation of engineered cartilage that closely matches properties of native cartilage has become a new option for curing cartilage diseases. The main hurdle for clinical application of engineered cartilage is how to develop functional cartilage constructs for mass production in a credible way. Recently, impressive hyaline cartilage that may have the potential to provide capabilities for treating large cartilage lesions in the future has been produced in laboratories. The key to functional cartilage construction in vitro is to identify appropriate mechanical stimuli. First, they should ensure the function of metabolism because mechanical stimuli play the role of blood vessels in the metabolism of AC, for example, acquiring nutrition and removing wastes. Second, they should mimic the movement of synovial joints and produce phenotypically correct tissues to achieve the adaptive development between the micro- and macrostructure and function. In this article, we divide mechanical stimuli into three types according to forces transmitted by different media in bioreactors, namely forces transmitted through the liquid medium, solid medium, or other media, then we review and summarize the research status of bioreactors for cartilage tissue engineering (CTE), mainly focusing on the effects of diverse mechanical stimuli on engineered cartilage. Based on current researches, there are several motion patterns in knee joints; but compression, tension, shear, fluid shear, or hydrostatic pressure each only partially reflects the mechanical condition in vivo. In this study, we propose that rolling–sliding–compression load consists of various stimuli that will represent better mechanical environment in CTE. In addition, engineers often ignore the importance of biochemical factors to the growth and development of engineered cartilage. In our point of view, only by fully considering synergistic effects of mechanical and biochemical factors can we find appropriate culture conditions for functional cartilage constructs. Once again, rolling–sliding–compression load under appropriate biochemical conditions may be conductive to realize the adaptive development between the structure and function of engineered cartilage in vitro.

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Published In

cover image Tissue Engineering Part B: Reviews
Tissue Engineering Part B: Reviews
Volume 23Issue Number 4August 2017
Pages: 399 - 411
PubMed: 28463576


Published in print: August 2017
Published online: 1 August 2017
Published ahead of print: 24 May 2017
Published ahead of production: 2 May 2017
Accepted: 20 April 2017
Received: 14 October 2016


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Ke Li
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Design and Intelligent Control of the Advanced Mechatronical System, School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, China.
Chunqiu Zhang
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Design and Intelligent Control of the Advanced Mechatronical System, School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, China.
Lulu Qiu
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Design and Intelligent Control of the Advanced Mechatronical System, School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, China.
Lilan Gao
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Design and Intelligent Control of the Advanced Mechatronical System, School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, China.
Xizheng Zhang
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Design and Intelligent Control of the Advanced Mechatronical System, School of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, China.


This article is part of a special focus issue on Strategic Directions in Musculoskeletal Tissue Engineering. Additional articles can be found in Tissue Engineering Part A, volume 23, numbers 15-16.
Address correspondence to:Chunqiu Zhang, PhDTianjin Key Laboratory of the Design and Intelligent Control of the Advanced Mechatronical SystemSchool of Mechanical EngineeringTianjin University of TechnologyTianjin 300384China
E-mail: [email protected]

Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.

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