Microengineered 3D cell-laden thermoresponsive hydrogels for mimicking cell morphology and orientation in cartilage tissue engineering

Amir Mellati, Chia Ming Fan, Ali Tamayol, Nasim Annabi, Sheng Dai, Jingxiu Bi, Bo Jin, Cory Xian, Ali Khademhosseini, Hu Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Mimicking the zonal organization of native articular cartilage, which is essential for proper tissue functions, has remained a challenge. In this study, a thermoresponsive copolymer of chitosan-g-poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (CS-g-PNIPAAm) was synthesized as a carrier of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to provide a support for their proliferation and differentiation. Microengineered three-dimensional (3D) cell-laden CS-g-PNIPAAm hydrogels with different microstripe widths were fabricated to control cellular alignment and elongation in order to mimic the superficial zone of natural cartilage. Biochemical assays showed six- and sevenfold increment in secretion of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and total collagen from MSCs encapsulated within the synthesized hydrogel after 28 days incubation in chondrogenic medium. Chondrogenic differentiation was also verified qualitatively by histological and immunohistochemical assessments. It was found that 75 ± 6% of cells encapsulated within 50 μm wide microstripes were aligned with an aspect ratio of 2.07 ± 0.16 at day 5, which was more organized than those observed in unpatterned constructs (12 ± 7% alignment and a shape index of 1.20 ± 0.07). The microengineered constructs mimicked the cell shape and organization in the superficial zone of cartilage whiles the unpatterned one resembled the middle zone. Our results suggest that microfabrication of 3D cell-laden thermosensitive hydrogels is a promising platform for creating biomimetic structures leading to more successful multi-zonal cartilage tissue engineering. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2017;114: 217–231.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-231
Number of pages15
JournalBiotechnology and Bioengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cartilage tissue engineering
  • microfabrication
  • thermoresponsive hydrogel
  • zonal organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

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