Cartilage defects are common, painful conditions and none of the currently available treatment options are satisfactory. Tissue engineering techniques involving scaffolds made from biodegradable synthetic polymers hold great promise for the future. These materials can be manufactured in an injectable form for minimally invasive procedures or in a preformed state to treat large irreparable lesions including arthritis. The mechanical and biologic properties of synthetic polymers can be tailored to different clinical applications and engineering strategies. The scaffold serves as a mechanical substrate for cells and bioactive factors and can help direct and organize the process of regeneration. The ultimate goal of tissue engineering is to recapitulate normal organogenesis to create histologically and functionally normal tissue. A review of the characteristics and potential of synthetic polymers shows that these substances will play a major role in treating cartilage disorders.

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