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Supplementary Material for: A High-Throughput Mechanical Activator for Cartilage Engineering Enables Rapid Screening of in vitro Response of Tissue Models to Physiological and Supra-Physiological Loads

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posted on 14.07.2021, 12:18 by Capuana E., Marino D., DiGesù R., LaCarrubba V., Brucato V., Tuan R.S., Gottardi R.
Articular cartilage is crucially influenced by loading during development, health, and disease. However, our knowledge of the mechanical conditions that promote engineered cartilage maturation or tissue repair is still incomplete. Current in vitro models that allow precise control of the local mechanical environment have been dramatically limited by very low throughput, usually just a few specimens per experiment. To overcome this constraint, we have developed a new device for the high throughput compressive loading of tissue constructs: the High Throughput Mechanical Activator for Cartilage Engineering (HiT-MACE), which allows the mechanoactivation of 6 times more samples than current technologies. With HiT-MACE we were able to apply cyclic loads in the physiological (e.g., equivalent to walking and normal daily activity) and supra-physiological range (e.g., injurious impacts or extensive overloading) to up to 24 samples in one single run. In this report, we compared the early response of cartilage to physiological and supra-physiological mechanical loading to the response to IL-1β exposure, a common but rudimentary in vitro model of cartilage osteoarthritis. Physiological loading rapidly upregulated gene expression of anabolic markers along the TGF-β1 pathway. Notably, TGF-β1 or serum was not included in the medium. Supra-physiological loading caused a mild catabolic response while IL-1β exposure drove a rapid anabolic shift. This aligns well with recent findings suggesting that overloading is a more realistic and biomimetic model of cartilage degeneration. Taken together, these findings showed that the application of HiT-MACE allowed the use of larger number of samples to generate higher volume of data to effectively explore cartilage mechanobiology, which will enable the design of more effective repair and rehabilitation strategies for degenerative cartilage pathologies.