Mechanical Stimulation Methods for Cartilage Tissue Engineering

  • Stefan Balko
  • Joanna F. Weber
  • Stephen D. WaldmanEmail author


Articular cartilage plays a crucial role in providing a low friction surface to allow joints in the human body to articulate properly. Mature cartilage lacks the ability for self-repair, thus when the cartilage tissue becomes damaged and/or injured, it is unable to heal itself and generally requires intervention. Current interventions involve the replacement of joint components with artificial implants designed to mimic the anatomical shape and low friction surfaces of the joint. This is an irreversible solution that, while generally successful, has limitations such as the limited lifespan of the implant components and the potential for poor bone integration leading to the overall failure of the implants. Therefore, there is a need for a better solution which does not replace the joints, but repairs the surfaces and allows for them to regain full functionality. Tissue engineering is a relatively new field that aims to solve problems that arise in the human body through the application of a multidisciplinary approach of biology, chemistry and engineering techniques. Cartilage tissue engineering specifically aims to create cartilage constructs in vitro which have the chemical, biological, and mechanical properties of native healthy cartilage, which can be used to repair joint surface damage. There have been many approaches and hypotheses as to how to grow and create strong, healthier cartilage tissue in vitro. One widely investigated technique is the use of mechanical stimulation. Cartilage tissue, in an anatomical setting, undergoes many different loading scenarios on a daily basis to which it responds with growth and remodeling. It is because of this that mechanical stimulation has become a large area of focus in the field of cartilage tissue engineering, aiming to mimic the growth parameters found in nature. This article aims to review the different mechanical stimulation techniques that have been used on cartilage constructs in vitro. Focusing on dynamic loading scenarios, the benefits and drawbacks of each loading type will be discussed leading to a discussion of complex (combined) loading scenarios. Finally, a general overview of what the future holds for mechanical stimulation will be discussed, outlining key issues that need to be investigated in order for cartilage tissue engineered constructs to become a viable option for joint repair and resurfacing.


Cartilage Chondrocytes Mechanical stimulation Mechanotransduction Mechanobiology Compression Indentation Shear Tension Multiaxial loading Vibrations Stochastic resonance 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefan Balko
    • 1
    • 2
  • Joanna F. Weber
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stephen D. Waldman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Chemical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Architectural ScienceRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada

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