A technique for producing controlled interconnected porous structures for application as a tissue engineering scaffold is presented in this article. The technique is based on the fabrication of a template of interconnected poly(ethyl methacrylate) (PEMA) microspheres, the introduction of a biodegradable polymer, poly-ε-caprolactone (PCL), and the elimination of the template by a selective solvent. A series of PCL scaffolds with a porosity of 70% and pore sizes up to 200 μm were produced and characterized (both thermally and mechanically). Human chondrocytes were cultured in monolayer on bulk PCL disks or seeded into porous PCL scaffolds. Cell adhesion, viability, proliferation, and proteoglycan (PG) synthesis were tested and compared with monolayer cultures on tissue-treated polystyrene or pellet cultures as reference controls. Cells cultured on PCL disks showed an adhesion similar to that of the polystyrene control (which allowed high levels of proliferation). Stained scaffold sections showed round-shaped chondrocyte aggregates embedded into porous PCL. PG production was similar to that of the pellet cultures and higher than that obtained with monolayer postconfluence cultures. This shows that the cells are capable of attaching themselves to PCL. Furthermore, in porous PCL, cells maintain the same phenotype as the chondrocytes within the native cartilage. These results suggest that PCL scaffolds may be a suitable candidate for chondrocyte culture. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- Cartilage tissue engineering