This study was designed to determine the effect of interconnective pore size on chondrocyte proliferation and function within chitosan sponges, and compare the potential of chitosan and polyglycolic acid (PGA) matrices for chondrogenesis. Six million porcine chondrocytes were seeded on each of 52 prewetted scaffolds consisting of chitosan sponges with (1) pores 10 microm in diameter (n=10, where n is the number of samples); (2) pores measuring 10-50 microm in diameter (n=10); and (3) pores measuring 70-120 microm in diameter (n=10), versus (4) polyglycolic acid mesh (n=22), as a positive control. Constructs were cultured for 28 days in a rotating bioreactor prior to scanning electron microscopy (SEM), histology, and determination of their water, DNA, glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and collagen II contents. Parametric data was compared (p=0.05) with an ANOVA and Tukey's Studentized range test. PGA constructs consisted essentially of a matrix containing more cells than normal cartilage. Whereas very few remnants of PGA remained, chitosan scaffolds appeared intact. DNA and GAG concentrations were greater in PGA scaffolds than in any of the chitosan groups. However, chitosan sponges with the largest pores contained more chondrocytes, collagen II and GAG than the matrix with the smallest pores. Constructs produced with PGA contained less water and more GAG than all chitosan groups. Chondrocyte proliferation and metabolic activity improved with increasing interconnective pore size of chitosan matrices. In vitro chondrogenesis is possible with chitosan but the composition of constructs produced on PGA more closely approaches that of natural cartilage.
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