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Cartilage tissue engineering has been emerging as a promising therapeutic approach, where engineered constructs or scaffolds are used as temporary supports to promote regeneration of functional cartilage tissue. Hybrid constructs fabricated from cells, hydrogels, and solid polymeric materials show the most potential for their enhanced biological and mechanical properties. However, fabrication of customized hybrid constructs with impregnated cells is still in its infancy and many issues related to their structural integrity and the cell functions need to be addressed by research. Meanwhile, it is noticed that nowadays monitoring the success of tissue engineered constructs must rely on animal models, which have to be sacrificed for subsequent examination based on histological techniques. This becomes a critical issue as tissue engineering advances from animal to human studies, thus raising a great need for non-invasive assessments of engineered constructs in situ. To address the aforementioned issues, this research is aimed to (1) develop novel fabrication processes to fabricate hybrid constructs incorporating living cells (hereafter referred as “construct biofabrication”) for cartilage tissue regeneration and (2) develop non-invasive monitoring methods based on synchrotron X-ray imaging techniques for examining cartilage tissue constructs in situ. Based on three-dimensional (3D) printing techniques, novel biofabrication processes were developed to create constructs from synthetic polycaprolactone (PCL) polymer framework and cell-impregnated alginate hydrogel, so as to provide both structural and biological properties as desired in cartilage tissue engineering. To ensure the structural integrity of the constructs, the influence of both PCL polymer and alginate was examined, thus forming a basis to prepare materials for subsequent construct biofabrication. To ensure the biological properties, three types of cells, i.e., two primary cell populations from embryonic chick sternum and an established chondrocyte cell line of ATDC5 were chosen to be incorporated in the construct biofabrication. The biological performance of the cells in the construct were examined along with the influence of the polymer melting temperature on them. The promising results of cell viability and proliferation as well as cartilage matrix production demonstrate that the developed processes are appropriate for fabricating hybrid constructs for cartilage tissue engineering. To develop non-invasive in situ assessment methods for cartilage and other soft tissue engineering applications, synchrotron phase-based X-ray imaging techniques of diffraction enhanced imaging (DEI), analyzer based imaging (ABI), and inline phase contrast imaging (PCI) were investigated, respectively, with samples prepared from pig knees implanted with low density scaffolds. The results from the computed-tomography (CT)-DEI, CT-ABI, and extended-distance CT-PCI showed the scaffold implanted in pig knee cartilage in situ with structural properties more clearly than conventional PCI and clinical MRI, thus providing information and means for tracking the success of scaffolds in tissue repair and remodeling. To optimize the methods for live animal and eventually for human patients, strategies with the aim to reduce the radiation dose during the imaging process were developed by reducing the number of CT projections, region of imaging, and imaging resolution. The results of the developed strategies illustrate that effective dose for CT-DEI, CT-ABI, and extended-distance CT-PCI could be reduced to 0.3-10 mSv, comparable to the dose for clinical X-ray scans, without compromising the image quality. Taken together, synchrotron X-ray imaging techniques were illustrated promising for developing non-invasive monitoring methods for examining cartilage tissue constructs in live animals and eventually in human patients.



Cartilage tissue engineering, Synchrotron biomedical imaging, 3D Bioprinting, Phase-based X-ray imaging, Tissue scaffolds, Hybrid constructs, Radiation dose



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Biomedical Engineering


Biomedical Engineering


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