Decellularized tissue matrices are promising substrates for tissue generation by stem cells to replace poorly regenerating tissues such as cartilage. However, the dense matrix of decellularized cartilage impedes colonisation by stem cells. Here, we show that digestion of elastin fibre bundles traversing auricular cartilage creates channels through which cells can migrate into the matrix. Human chondrocytes and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells efficiently colonise elastin-treated scaffolds through these channels, restoring a glycosaminoglycan-rich matrix and improving mechanical properties while maintaining size and shape of the restored tissue. The scaffolds are also rapidly colonised by endogenous cartilage-forming cells in a subcutaneously implanted osteochondral biopsy model. Creating channels for cells in tissue matrices may be a broadly applicable strategy for recellularization and restoration of tissue function.

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Journal Biofabrication
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Lehmann, J., Nurnberger, S, Narcisi, R, Stok, S., van der Eerden, B.C.J, Koevoet, W, … van Osch, G.J.V.M. (2019). Recellularization of auricular cartilage via elastase-generated channels. Biofabrication, 11(3). doi:10.1088/1758-5090/ab1436