Osteochondral tissue has a complex graded structure where biological, physiological, and mechanical properties vary significantly over the full thickness spanning the subchondral bone region beneath the joint surface to the hyaline cartilage region at the joint surface. This presents a significant challenge for tissue-engineered structures addressing osteochondral defects. 3D bioprinters, together with novel biomaterials and innovative fabrication techniques, present a unique solution to this problem. The objective of this body of research is to use FDM-based 3D bioprinting, innovative biomaterials, appropriate growth factors, and innovative casting techniques for improved bone marrow human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) adhesion, growth, and osteochondral differentiation. FDM parameters can be tuned through computer aided design and computer numerical control software to manipulate scaffold geometries in ways that are beneficial to mechanical performance without hindering cellular behavior. Additionally, the ability to manipulate 3D printed scaffolds increases further through our innovatuve casting procedure which facilitates the inclusion of nanoparticles with biochemical factors to further elicit desired hMSC differentiation. In all studies the mechanical and biological impacts of the scaffolds were compared and evaluated to determine the benefits of each physical manipulation. The results indicate that both mechanical properties and cell performance can be easily manipulated through the investment casting process to achieve a spatially appropriate osteogenic and chondrogenic response in engineered osteochondral scaffolds.
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