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Three-dimensional hydrogels are ideal for tissue engineering applications due to their structural integrity and similarity to native soft tissues; however, they can lack mechanical stability. Our objective was to develop a bioactive and mechanically stable hydrogel for clinical application. Auricular cartilage was decellularised using a combination of hypertonic and hypotonic solutions with and without enzymes to produce acellular tissue. Methacryloyl groups were crosslinked with alginate and PVA main chains via 2-aminoethylmathacrylate and the entire macromonomer further crosslinked with the acellular tissue. The resultant hydrogels were characterised for its physicochemical properties (using NMR), in vitro degradation (via GPC analysis), mechanical stability (compression tests) and in vitro biocompatibility (co-culture with bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells). Following decellularisation, the cartilage tissue showed to be acellular at a significant level (DNA content 25.33 ng/mg vs. 351.46 ng/mg control tissue), with good structural and molecular integrity of the retained extra cellular matrix (s-GAG= 0.19 μg/mg vs. 0.65 μg/mg ±0.001 control tissue). Proteomic analysis showed that collagen subtypes and proteoglycans were retained, and SEM and TEM showed preserved matrix ultra-structure. The hybrid hydrogel was successfully cross-linked with biological and polymer components, and it was stable for 30 days in simulated body fluid (poly dispersal index for alginate with tissue was stable at 1.08 and for PVA with tissue was stable at 1.16). It was also mechanically stable (Young's modulus of 0.46 ± 0.31 KPa) and biocompatible, as it was able to support the development of a multi-cellular feature with active cellular proliferation in vitro. We have shown that it is possible to successfully combine biological tissue with both a synthetic and natural polymer and create a hybrid bioactive hydrogel for clinical application.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biomater Appl

Publication Date





447 - 465


Cartilage, biocompatible, hybrid, hydrogel, scaffold, Acrylates, Alginates, Animals, Biocompatible Materials, Cartilage, Articular, Cell Proliferation, Cells, Cultured, Collagen, Elastic Modulus, Glycosaminoglycans, Hydrogels, Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Swine, Tissue Scaffolds