Background: Cartilage has limited ability for self-repairing, prompting the search for cartilage
substitutes that can repair cartilage defects. Hydrogels have attracted attention as cartilage substitutes,
since their mechanical properties, swelling ability and lubricating behavior are similar to extracellular
matrix of articular cartilage. Hydrogels can be of natural, synthetic or hybrid origin, and
hydrogels can encapsulate stem cells and/or be loaded with growth factors to promote cell differentiation
into a chondrogenic phenotype.
Objective and Results: This review summarizes basic research advances in using hydrogels to repair
cartilage defects. The raw materials, stem cells and growth factors used to prepare hydrogels are discussed.
Conclusion: Substantial success has been achieved in small animal models of cartilage repair and regeneration,
but further research is needed to improve hydrogels’ mechanical properties and their integration
with surrounding tissues.