Publication Name

Acta Biomaterialia


In this work we present a standardised quantitative ultrasound imaging (SQUI) approach for the non-destructive three-dimensional imaging and quantification of cartilage formation in hydrogel based bioscaffolds. The standardised concept involves the processing of ultrasound backscatter data with respect to an acellular phantom in combination with the compensation of sound speed mismatch diffraction effects between the bioscaffold and the phantom. As a proof-of-concept, the SQUI approach was tested on a variety of bioscaffolds with varying degree of neocartilage formation. These were composed of Gelatine Methacryloyl (GelMA) hydrogels laden with human adipose-derived stem cells (hADSCs). These were cultured under chondrogenic stimulation following a previously established protocol, where the degree of the neocartilage formation was modulated using different GelMA network densities (6, 8, 10 % w/v) and culture time (0, 14, 28 days). Using the SQUI approach we were able to detect marked acoustic and morphological changes occurring in the bioscaffolds a result of their different chondrogenic outcome. We defined an acoustic neocartilage indicator, the sonomarker, for the selective imaging and quantification of neocartilage formation. The sonomarker, of backscatter intensity logIBC -2.4, was found to correlate with data obtained via standard destructive bioassays. The ultrasonic evaluation of human specimens confirmed the sonomarker as a relevant intensity, although it was found to shift to higher intensity values in proportion to the cartilage condition as inferred from sound speed measurements. This study demonstrates the potential of the SQUI approach for the realization of non-destructive analysis of cartilage regeneration over-time. Statement of significance: As tissue engineering strategies for neocartilage regeneration evolve towards clinical implementation, alternative characterisation approaches that allow the non-destructive monitoring of extracellular matrix formation in implantable hydrogel based bioscaffolds are needed. In this work we present an innovative standardized quantitative ultrasound imaging (SQUI) approach that allows the non-destructive, volumetric, and quantitative evaluation of neocartilage formation in hydrogel based bioscaffolds. The standardised concept aims to provide a robust approach that accounts for the dynamic changes occurring during the conversion from a cellular bioscaffold towards the formation of a neocartilage construct. We believe that the SQUI approach will be of great benefit for the evaluation of constructs developing neocartilage, not only for in-vitro applications but also potentially applicable to in-vivo applications.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian National Fabrication Facility

Available for download on Thursday, May 25, 2023



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