Theranostics 2018; 8(7):1940-1955. doi:10.7150/thno.23674

Research Paper

Bioactive Scaffolds for Regeneration of Cartilage and Subchondral Bone Interface

Cuijun Deng1,2, Huiying Zhu1, Jiayi Li3, Chun Feng1,2, Qingqiang Yao3, Liming Wang3, Jiang Chang1, Chengtie Wu1,✉

1. State Key Laboratory of High Performance Ceramics and Superfine Microstructure, Shanghai Institute of Ceramics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Shanghai 200050,P.R.China
2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, P.R.China
3. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Digital Medicine Institute, Nanjing Medical University Nanjing Hospital. No. 68 Changle Road, Nanjing 210006, P.R.China


The cartilage lesion resulting from osteoarthritis (OA) always extends into subchondral bone. It is of great importance for simultaneous regeneration of two tissues of cartilage and subchondral bone. 3D-printed Sr5(PO4)2SiO4 (SPS) bioactive ceramic scaffolds may achieve the aim of regenerating both of cartilage and subchondral bone. We hypothesized that strontium (Sr) and silicon (Si) ions released from SPS scaffolds play a crucial role in osteochondral defect reconstruction.

Methods: SPS bioactive ceramic scaffolds were fabricated by a 3D-printing method. The SEM and ICPAES were used to investigate the physicochemical properties of SPS scaffolds. The proliferation and maturation of rabbit chondrocytes stimulated by SPS bioactive ceramics were measured in vitro. The stimulatory effect of SPS scaffolds for cartilage and subchondral bone regeneration was investigated in vivo.

Results: SPS scaffolds significantly stimulated chondrocyte proliferation, and SPS extracts distinctly enhanced the maturation of chondrocytes and preserved chondrocytes from OA. SPS scaffolds markedly promoted the regeneration of osteochondral defects. The complex interface microstructure between cartilage and subchondral bone was obviously reconstructed. The underlying mechanism may be related to Sr and Si ions stimulating cartilage regeneration by activating HIF pathway and promoting subchondral bone reconstruction through activating Wnt pathway, as well as preserving chondrocytes from OA via inducing autophagy and inhibiting hedgehog pathway.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that SPS scaffolds can help osteochondral defect reconstruction and well reconstruct the complex interface between cartilage and subchondral bone, which represents a promising strategy for osteochondral defect regeneration.

Keywords: 3D-printing, strontium, osteoarthritis, osteochondral defects, cartilage regeneration.

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How to cite this article:
Deng C, Zhu H, Li J, Feng C, Yao Q, Wang L, Chang J, Wu C. Bioactive Scaffolds for Regeneration of Cartilage and Subchondral Bone Interface. Theranostics 2018; 8(7):1940-1955. doi:10.7150/thno.23674. Available from