The limited repair potential of human articular cartilage contributes to development of debilitating osteoarthritis and remains a great clinical challenge. This has led to evolution of cartilage treatment strategies from palliative to either reconstructive or reparative methods in an attempt to delay or "bridge the gap" to joint replacement. Further development of tissue engineering-based cartilage repair methods have been pursued to provide a more functional biological tissue. Currently, tissue engineering of articular cartilage has three cornerstones; a cell population capable of proliferation and differentiation into mature chondrocytes, a scaffold that can host these cells, provide a suitable environment for cellular functioning and serve as a sustained-release delivery vehicle of chondrogenic growth factors and thirdly, signaling molecules and growth factors that stimulate the cellular response and the production of a hyaline extracellular matrix (ECM). The aim of this review is to summarize advances in each of these three fields of tissue engineering with specific relevance to surgical techniques and technical notes.
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