The treatment of osteochondral defects (OCD) remains a great challenge in orthopaedics. Tissue engineering holds a good promise for regeneration of OCD. In the light of tissue engineering, it is critical to establish an appropriate animal model to evaluate the degradability, biocompatibility, and interaction of implanted biomaterials with host bone/cartilage tissues for OCD repair in vivo. Currently, model animals that are commonly deployed to create osteochondral lesions range from rats, rabbits, dogs, pigs, goats, and sheep horses to nonhuman primates. It is essential to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each animal model in terms of the accuracy and effectiveness of the experiment. Therefore, this review aims to introduce the common animal models of OCD for testing biomaterials and to discuss their applications in translational research. In addition, we have reviewed surgical protocols for establishing OCD models and biomaterials that promote osteochondral regeneration. For small animals, the non-load-bearing region such as the groove of femoral condyle is commonly chosen for testing degradation, biocompatibility, and interaction of implanted biomaterials with host tissues. For large animals, closer to clinical application, the load-bearing region (medial femoral condyle) is chosen for testing the durability and healing outcome of biomaterials. This review provides an important reference for selecting a suitable animal model for the development of new strategies for osteochondral regeneration.
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