Scaffolds with cartilage-like environment and suitable physical properties are critical for tissue-engineered cartilage repair. In this study, decellularized porcine cartilage-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) was utilized to fabricate ECM scaffolds. Mechanically reinforced ECM scaffolds were developed by combining salt-leaching and crosslinking for cartilage repair. The developed scaffolds were investigated with respect to their physicochemical properties and their cartilage tissue formation ability. The mechanically reinforced ECM scaffold showed similar mechanical strength to that of synthetic PLGA scaffold and expressed higher levels of cartilage-specific markers compared to those expressed by the ECM scaffold prepared by simple freeze-drying. These results demonstrated that the physical properties of ECM-derived scaffolds could be influenced by fabrication method, which provides suitable environments for the growth of chondrocytes. By extension, this study suggests a promising approach of natural biomaterials in cartilage tissue engineering.
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