The aim of this study was to establish a critical-sized nonjoint chondral defect animal model and to evaluate its feasibility for testing cartilage regeneration strategies. Dermal biopsy punches 1-4mm in diameter were used to create cylindrical full-thickness defects in the center of athymic rat xiphoids. The 3 and 4mm defects remained unhealed 35 days postsurgery, with a large area in the center that had low proteoglycan content based on contrast-enhanced microCT (EPIC-microCT), radiographic, and histological analyses. In a second step, tissue-engineered cartilage was synthesized by culturing primary bovine articular chondrocytes on poly-L-lactic acid (PLA) scaffolds in a perfusion-shear bioreactor for 28 days. These chondrocyte/PLA constructs or primary bovine chondrocytes were implanted into 3-mm-diameter defects. Empty defects and defects implanted with empty PLA scaffolds were used as controls. Xiphoids were harvested 28 days after surgery and examined with faxitron, microCT, and histology using hematoxylin and eosin and safranin-O staining. Both chondrocyte/PLA constructs and chondrocytes alone formed neocartilage. The results indicate that a 3mm cylindrical defect in a rat xiphoid is an economic, feasible, and reproductive model to evaluate the potential of various constructs for nonjoint cartilage repair. Copyright 2010, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.