The benefits and limitations of animal models for translational research in cartilage repair.
Much research is currently ongoing into new therapies for cartilage defect repair with new biomaterials frequently appearing which purport to have significant regenerative capacity. These biomaterials may be classified as medical devices, and as such must undergo rigorous testing before they are implanted in humans. A large part of this testing involves in vitro trials and biomechanical testing. However, in order to bridge the gap between the lab and the clinic, in vivo preclinical trials are required, and usually demanded by regulatory approval bodies. This review examines the in vivo models in current use for cartilage defect repair testing and the relevance of each in the context of generated results and applicability to bringing the device to clinical practice. Some of the preclinical models currently used include murine, leporine, ovine, caprine, porcine, canine, and equine models. Each of these has advantages and disadvantages in terms of animal husbandry, cartilage thickness, joint biomechanics and ethical and licencing issues. This review will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the various animal models currently in use in preclinical studies of cartilage repair.