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Englert, Carsten; Blunk, Torsten; Mueller, Rainer; Schulze von Glasser, Sabine; Baumer, Julia; Fierlbeck, Johann; Heid, Iris M.; Nerlich, Michael; Hammer, Joachim: Bonding of articular cartilage using a combination of biochemical degradation and surface cross-linking. In: Arthritis Research & Therapy 2007, 9:R47




After trauma, articular cartilage often does not heal due to incomplete bonding of the fractured surfaces. In this study we investigated the ability of chemical cross-linkers to facilitate bonding of articular cartilage, either alone or in combination with a pre-treatment with surface-degrading agents. Articular cartilage blocks were harvested from the femoropatellar groove of bovine calves. Two cartilage blocks, either after pre-treatment or without, were assembled in a custom-designed chamber in partial apposition and subjected to cross-linking treatment. Subsequently, bonding of cartilage was measured as adhesive strength, that is, the maximum force at rupture of bonded cartilage blocks divided by the overlap area. In a first approach, bonding was investigated after treatment with cross-linking reagents only, employing glutaraldehyde, 1-ethyl-3diaminopropyl-carbodiimide (EDC)/N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS), genipin, or transglutaminase. Experiments were conducted with or without compression of the opposing surfaces. Compression during cross-linking strongly enhanced bonding, especially when applying EDC/NHS and glutaraldehyde. Therefore, all further experiments were performed under compressive conditions. Combinations of each of the four cross-linking agents with the degrading pretreatments, pepsin, trypsin, and guanidine, led to distinct improvements in bonding compared to the use of cross-linkers alone. The highest values of adhesive strength were achieved employing combinations of pepsin or guanidine with EDC/NHS, and guanidine with glutaraldehyde. The release of extracellular matrix components, that is, glycosaminoglycans and total collagen, from cartilage blocks after pre-treatment was measured, but could not be directly correlated to the determined adhesive strength. Cytotoxicity was determined for all substances employed, that is, surface degrading agents and cross-linkers, using the resazurin assay. Taking the favourable cell vitality after treatment with pepsin and EDC/NHS and the cytotoxic effects of guanidine and glutaraldehyde into account, the combination of pepsin and EDC/NHS appeared to be the most advantageous treatment in this study. In conclusion, bonding of articular cartilage blocks was achieved by chemical fixation of their surface components using cross-linking reagents. Application of compressive forces and prior modulation of surface structures enhanced cartilage bonding significantly. Enzymatic treatment in combination with cross-linkers may represent a promising addition to current techniques for articular cartilage repair.