A feasibility study was undertaken to examine the potential of biodegradable HEMA-lactate-dextran (HEMA-LLA-D)-based cryogels as scaffolds for cartilage tissue engineering. This was a preliminary in vitro study giving essential information on the biocompatibility of cryogels with cartilage cells. HEMA-lactate (HEMA-LLA) and HEMA-LLA-D were synthesized and characterized by different techniques. Cryogel scaffolds with supermacroporous structures were produced by cryogenic treatment of these macromers. Chondrocytes obtained from bovine articular cartilage were seeded onto cylindrical cryogels and cultured. The samples were examined by several microcopical techniques for cell viability and morphological analyses were performed at two culture points. Histological study of the constructs revealed the cells' growth on the surface and within the scaffolds. Confocal microscopical images demonstrated that the majority of live vs. dead cells had been attached to and integrated with the pores of the scaffold. SEM analysis showed round to oval-shaped chondrocytic cells interconnected with each other by communicating junctions. The chondrocytes rapidly proliferated in the cryogels, manifesting that they fully covered the scaffold surface after 9 days and almost filled the spaces in the pores of the scaffold after 15 days of culture. Chondrocytes secreted significant amount of extracellular matrix in the scaffolds and exhibited highly interconnective morphology. Light and transmission electron microscopy revealed groups of active cartilage cells closely apposed to the cryogel. We concluded that cryogel scaffolds could be excellent candidates for cartilage tissue regeneration with their extraordinary properties, including soft, elastic nature, highly open interconnected pore structure and very rapid, controllable swellability. Copyright (C) 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.