Tissue engineering is expected to help us outlive the failure of our organs by enabling the creation of tissue substitutes capable of fully restoring the original tissue function. Degenerative joint disease, which affects one-fifth of the US population and is the country's leading cause of disability, drives current research of actively growing, functional tissue grafts for joint repair. Toward this goal, living cells are used in conjunction with biomaterial scaffolds (serving as instructive templates for tissue development) and bioreactors (providing environmental control and molecular and physical regulatory signals). In this review, we discuss the requirements for engineering customized, anatomically-shaped, stratified grafts for joint repair and the challenges of designing these grafts to provide immediate functionality (load bearing, structural support) and long-term regeneration (maturation, integration, remodeling).
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