Three-dimensional (3D) porous collagen sponges incorporated with single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) were prepared and used for 3D culture of bovine articular chondrocytes (BACs). The pore structures of the sponges were controlled by using ice particulates as a porogen material. The responses of cells to SWCNTs were investigated in this 3D cell culture system by evaluation of cell functions and cellular uptake of SWCNTs. The results showed that cells adhered and spatially distributed in the porous sponges. The incorporation of SWCNTs in the porous sponges promoted cell proliferation and production of sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAG). Confocal Raman imaging revealed that SWCNTs could be internalized by cells. The hybrid porous sponges not only provided nanostructured pore surfaces to facilitate cell proliferation and extracellular matrix (ECM) secretion but also supplied nanomaterials for cellular uptake which may be useful for biomedical applications.
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