Polymer Science Faculty Research

Design and assessment of a tissue-engineered model of human phalanges and a small joint

William Landis, The University of Akron


OBJECTIVES: To develop models of human phalanges and small joints by suturing different cell-polymer constructs that are then implanted in athymic (nude) mice. DESIGN: Models consisted of bovine periosteum, cartilage, and/or tendon cells seeded onto biodegradable polymer scaffolds of either polyglycolic acid (PGA) or copolymers of PGA and poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA) or poly-epsilon-caprolactone (PCL) and PLLA. Constructs were fabricated to produce a distal phalanx, middle phalanx, or distal interphalangeal joint. SETTING AND SAMPLE POPULATION: Studies of more than 250 harvested implants were conducted at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. EXPERIMENTAL VARIABLE: Polymer scaffold, cell type, and implantation time were examined. OUTCOME MEASURE: Tissue-engineered specimens were characterized by histology, transmission electron microscopy, in situ hybridization, laser capture microdissection and qualitative and quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis, magnetic resonance microscopy, and X-ray microtomography. RESULTS: Over periods to 60 weeks of implantation, constructs developed through vascularity from host mice; formed new cartilage, bone, and/or tendon; expressed characteristic genes of bovine origin, including type I, II and X collagen, osteopontin, aggrecan, biglycan, and bone sialoprotein; secreted corresponding proteins; responded to applied mechanical stimuli; and maintained shapes of human phalanges with small joints. CONCLUSION: Results give insight into construct processes of tissue regeneration and development and suggest more complete tissue-engineered cartilage, bone, and tendon models. These should have significant future scientific and clinical applications in medicine, including their use in plastic surgery, orthopaedics, craniofacial reconstruction, and teratology.