Addition of hyaluronic acid improves cellular infiltration and promotes early-stage chondrogenesis in a collagen-based scaffold for cartilage tissue engineering.

The response of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to a matrix largely depends on the composition as well as the extrinsic mechanical and morphological properties of the substrate to which they adhere to. Collagen-glycosaminoglycan (CG) scaffolds have been extensively used in a range of tissue engineering applications with great success. This is due in part to the presence of the glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in complementing the biofunctionality of collagen. In this context, the overall goal of this study was to investigate the effect of two GAG types: chondroitin sulphate (CS) and hyaluronic acid (HyA) on the mechanical and morphological characteristics of collagen-based scaffolds and subsequently on the differentiation of rat MSCs in vitro. Morphological characterisation revealed that the incorporation of HyA resulted in a significant reduction in scaffold mean pore size (93.9 μm) relative to collagen-CS (CCS) scaffolds (136.2 μm). In addition, the collagen-HyA (CHyA) scaffolds exhibited greater levels of MSC infiltration in comparison to the CCS scaffolds. Moreover, these CHyA scaffolds showed significant acceleration of early stage gene expression of SOX-9 (approximately 60-fold higher, p