Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Trimethylamine oxide-supplemented culture medium enhances engineered cartilage

Technology #2823

Though tissue engineering holds great promise for patients suffering from osteoarthritis, engineered cartilage typically lacks sufficient mechanical properties due to sub-native collagen levels. This technology encompasses the use of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) to enhance the properties of engineered cartilage tissue. TMAO is a natural osmolyte commonly found in various saltwater animals and has been shown to induce protein folding, helping to increase and preserve collagen levels in tissues. Supplementation of tissue culture medium with TMAO is a simple method to enhance collagen content and mechanical properties of engineered cartilage in vitro.

TMAO supplementation complements existing cartilage tissue engineering strategies

Collagen is one of the primary matrix components of cartilage and plays a critical role in maintaining tissue mechanical integrity. Therefore, synthesis and maintenance of a robust cartilaginous matrix is necessary for the development of functional cartilage grafts. TMAO exhibits protein stabilizing effects. A dose-dependent increase in collagen content and mechanical strength were observed in cartilage grafts cultured in TMAO-supplemented media. In contrast to other methods that have been explored for improving collagen synthesis, TMAO supplementation can be easily incorporated into existing culture protocols.

Moreover, the addition of TMAO to culture media has been shown to augment other collagen-enhancing approaches resulting in more functionally competent engineered cartilage grafts.

Lead Inventor:

Clark Hung, Ph.D.


  • Media supplementation to increase collagen content and improve mechanical properties of engineered cartilage
  • Media supplementation for engineering other collagen-rich tissues, e.g. skin, ligaments, tendons
  • Regulation of osmotic pressure in tissue engineered scaffold systems or dialysis solutions


  • Enhances collagen synthesis, thereby improving mechanical function of engineered tissues
  • Easily incorporated into existing culture protocols
  • Complementary to other methods for improving collagen synthesis and/or enhancing cartilage mechanical properties

Patent Information:

Patent Pending (US 20130202567)

Tech Ventures Reference: IR 2823

Related Publications: