Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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Articulation inspired by nature: a review of biomimetic and biologically active 3D printed scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-04-08, 13:41 authored by Donagh O'SheaDonagh O'Shea, Caroline CurtinCaroline Curtin, Fergal O'BrienFergal O'Brien
In the human body, articular cartilage facilitates the frictionless movement of synovial joints. However, due to its avascular and aneural nature, it has a limited ability to self-repair when damaged due to injury or wear and tear over time. Current surgical treatment options for cartilage defects often lead to the formation of fibrous, non-durable tissue and thus a new solution is required. Nature is the best innovator and so recent advances in the field of tissue engineering have aimed to recreate the microenvironment of native articular cartilage using biomaterial scaffolds. However, the inability to mirror the complexity of native tissue has hindered the clinical translation of many products thus far. Fortunately, the advent of 3D printing has provided a potential solution. 3D printed scaffolds, fabricated using biomimetic biomaterials, can be designed to mimic the complex zonal architecture and composition of articular cartilage. The bioinks used to fabricate these scaffolds can also be further functionalised with cells and/or bioactive factors or gene therapeutics to mirror the cellular composition of the native tissue. Thus, this review investigates how the architecture and composition of native articular cartilage is inspiring the design of biomimetic bioinks for 3D printing of scaffolds for cartilage repair. Subsequently, we discuss how these 3D printed scaffolds can be further functionalised with cells and bioactive factors, as well as looking at future prospects in this field.


European Research Council under the European Community’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under ERC Advanced Grant agreement n°788753 (ReCaP).

Health Research Board (HRB) in Ireland under grant agreement ILP-POR-2019-023



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Published Citation

O'Shea DG, Curtin CM, O'Brien FJ. Articulation inspired by nature: a review of biomimetic and biologically active 3D printed scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering. Biomater Sci. 2022.

Publication Date

22 March 2022

PubMed ID



  • Tissue Engineering Research Group (TERG)
  • Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine
  • Amber (Advanced Material & Bioengineering Research) Centre


Royal Society of Chemistry


  • Published Version (Version of Record)