Cartilage defects in the knee are often seen in young and active patients. There is a need for effective joint preserving treatments in patients suffering from cartilage defects, as untreated defects often lead to osteoarthritis. Within the last two decades, tissue engineering based techniques using a wide variety of polymers, cell sources, and signaling molecules have been evaluated. We start this review with basic background information on cartilage structure, its intrinsic repair, and an overview of the cartilage repair treatments from a historical perspective. Next, we thoroughly discuss polymer construct components and their current use in commercially available constructs. Finally, we provide an in-depth discussion about construct considerations such as degradation rates, cell sources, mechanical properties, joint homeostasis, and non-degradable/hybrid resurfacing techniques. As future prospects in cartilage repair, we foresee developments in three areas: first, further optimization of degradable scaffolds towards more biomimetic grafts and improved joint environment. Second, we predict that patient-specific non-degradable resurfacing implants will become increasingly applied and will provide a feasible treatment for older patients or failed regenerative treatments. Third, we foresee an increase of interest in hybrid construct, which combines degradable with non-degradable materials.
- functional synthetic polymers
- functional natural polymers
- tissue engineering
- cartilage repair
- knee joint