Self-assembling hydrogels for cartilage engineering purposes
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Completely recovering therapies for patients with articular cartilage defects, due to for example sport- or car incidents, are still not there. Therefore, current medical studies focuses on the development of new articular cartilage repairing strategies. There is increasing interest in the field of tissue engineering to develop such therapy. Biomaterials play an essential role in the development of proper functional engineered tissue. Articular cartilages' intrinsic function is to provide a smooth joint surface which can withstand big mechanical loadings. As a consequence, the biomaterials which will be developed for articular cartilage studies should meet to this biomechanics, and should enable the incorporation of chondrogenic cells and (growth) factors. Self-assembling biomaterials are a relatively new material, which are molecules that form a network via a non-covalent bound, which is a highly dynamically and spontaneous process. This facilitates several beneficial aspects. These aspects include the ability to incorporate cells into the hydrogel before the self-assembly, to functionalize the fibers with bioactive peptides non-covalently attached to the fibers, to create an three-dimensional extracellular matrix mimicking environment, and to self-assemble in situ after injection, resulting in a hydrogel which is practical for clinical applications. The biomechanical functions, stability, and degradation time are partially adjustable by changing the amount and strength of cross-links between the fibers. However, until this moment the results on biomechanics, stability, and degradation time are limited and therefore an area for more research. In this thesis, several self-assembling biomaterials with their advantages and disadvantages, and interesting applications in regard to clinical therapies, will be discussed. There are some potentially good self-assembling materials which could be developed into proper hydrogels, however, more research need to be conducted. This can lead to the development of hydrogels which can be used for articular cartilage engineering purposes, and hopefully eventually leading to the improvement of current articular cartilage therapies.