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Promising new therapies based on tissue engineering have been recently developed for cartilage repair. The association of biomaterials with autologous chondrocytes expanded in vitro can represent a useful tool to regenerate this tissue. The scaffolds utilised in such therapeutical applications should provide a pre-formed three-dimensional shape, prevent cells from floating out of the defect, have sufficient mechanical strength, facilitate uniform spread of cells and stimulate the phenotype of transplanted cells. Hyaff®-11 is a hyaluronic-acid based biodegradable polymer, that has been shown to provide successful cell carrier for tissue-engineered repair. From our findings we can state that human chondrocytes seeded on Hyaff®-11 are able to maintain in vitro the characteristic of differentiated cells, expressing and producing collagen type II and aggrecan which are the main markers of cartilage phenotype, down-regulating collagen type I. Moreover, it seems to be a useful scaffold for cartilage repair both in animal models and clinical trials in humans, favouring the formation of a hyaline-like tissue. In the light of these data, we can hypothesise, for the future, the use of autologous chondrocyte transplantation together with gene therapy as a treatment for rheumatic diseases such as osteoarthritis.
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