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Owing to the inability of cartilage to heal even minor defects, as well as the prevalence of osteoarthritis, the biological repair of this tissue has been the primary focus of decades of basic science and pre-clinical research. This research focussed on cartilage repair has witnessed marked advances via developments in biomaterials science as well as in tissue engineering methodologies. In this chapter, we review select topics in cartilage tissue engineering, describe current clinical cartilage repair procedures, and discuss ongoing considerations relating to the realization of these advances through pre-clinical animal models.
Cartilage is a collagenous, proteoglycan-rich, and water-saturated flexible soft connective tissue. A single cell type, the chondrocyte, is responsible for cartilage tissue maintenance and homeostasis. The tissue is aneural and avascular in the adult and relies on diffusion for nutrient and waste exchange (Brodin, 1955; Strangeways, 1920). The structure and function of cartilage categorizes these soft connective tissues into three broad groupings: elastic cartilage, fibrocartilage, and hyaline cartilage (Gray and Goss, 1973).