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The meniscus is an important fibro-cartilaginous tissue within the knee joint responsible for load bearing and transmission, shock absorption, joint stability, lubrication and congruity. It has an extremely complex biochemical composition, comprising fibres orientated in various directions, thus enabling the meniscus to effectively respond to the different stresses.

Damage to the meniscus can result in loss of some or all of the above functions. In fact, the meniscus has a poor healing potential, partly due to the absence of vascularisation.

In the past many strategies were adopted in order to repair meniscus lesions; partial or total removal of the torn meniscus (meniscectomy) were standard therapy. Unfortunately, meniscectomy leads to osteoarthritis, due to the decreased amount of meniscus tissue remaining after the surgical operation, and the consequent increase of load per unit area, thus resulting in further cartilage damage and degeneration.

Tissue engineering is one possible solution to reach the issue of meniscus regeneration. Engineered constructs for meniscal repair are based on a combination of meniscal cells, growth factors and scaffolds. Scaffolds, which are seeded with autologous cells prior to host implantation, should guarantee biomechanical stability and prevent immunological response of the host towards the scaffold itself or towards its degradation products.

Our studies currently involve the development of a tailor made collagen scaffold, obtained through the combined use of rapid prototyping technique and lyophilisation. Moreover, we are aiming to radially reinforce the scaffold through the use of resorbable PLGA-poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) fibres. A radial reinforcement is thought to prevent tears in the avascular region of the meniscus (bucket-handle tears). Scaffolds with such a structure should guarantee more functional tissue regeneration. Scaffolds are obtained making use of moulds conveniently pierced, obtained via rapid prototipation technique. A collagen slurry fills the mould, previously knitted with resorbable wire. A lyophilisation step is necessary to obtain a sponge-like construct.

Prior to geometric optimization of the scaffold, we are focusing on the achievement of adequate porosity in term of pore dimension and distribution, in order to allow and facilitate cell attachment and proliferation. Partners from the “San Raffaele Hospital” in Milan are carrying out tests to evaluate the capability of chondrocytes to colonize several collagen substrates and to migrate along the polymeric fibres.


For any information write to Alessandro Sannino



University of Salento   Facoltà di Ingengeria   Department of Engineering for Innovation
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