Theranostics 2020; 10(21):9843-9864. doi:10.7150/thno.46450


Exquisite design of injectable Hydrogels in Cartilage Repair

Jiawei Wu1,2*, Qi Chen2*, Chao Deng3*, Baoping Xu2, Zeiyan Zhang2, Yang Yang2✉, Tingli Lu1✉

1. Key Laboratory for Space Bioscience and Biotechnology, Northwestern Polytechnical University School of Life Sciences.
2. Key Laboratory of Resource Biology and Biotechnology in Western China, Ministry of Education. Faculty of Life Sciences, Northwest University, 229 Taibai North Road, Xi'an 710069, China.
3. Department of Cardiovascular Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Xi'an Jiaotong University, 277 Yanta West Road, Xi'an 710061, Shaanxi, China.
*These authors contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Wu J, Chen Q, Deng C, Xu B, Zhang Z, Yang Y, Lu T. Exquisite design of injectable Hydrogels in Cartilage Repair. Theranostics 2020; 10(21):9843-9864. doi:10.7150/thno.46450. Available from

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Cartilage damage is still a threat to human beings, yet there is currently no treatment available to fully restore the function of cartilage. Recently, due to their unique structures and properties, injectable hydrogels have been widely studied and have exhibited high potential for applications in therapeutic areas, especially in cartilage repair. In this review, we briefly introduce the properties of cartilage, some articular cartilage injuries, and now available treatment strategies. Afterwards, we propose the functional and fundamental requirements of injectable hydrogels in cartilage tissue engineering, as well as the main advantages of injectable hydrogels as a therapy for cartilage damage, including strong plasticity and excellent biocompatibility. Moreover, we comprehensively summarize the polymers, cells, and bioactive molecules regularly used in the fabrication of injectable hydrogels, with two kinds of gelation, i.e., physical and chemical crosslinking, which ensure the excellent design of injectable hydrogels for cartilage repair. We also include novel hybrid injectable hydrogels combined with nanoparticles. Finally, we conclude with the advances of this clinical application and the challenges of injectable hydrogels used in cartilage repair.

Keywords: injectable hydrogels, cartilage repair, polymers, gelation