Altered in vitro chondrogenic properties of chondrocytes harvested from unaffected cartilage in osteoarthritic joints

K. G.A. Yang, D. B.F. Saris*, R. E. Geuze, M. H.P. van Rijen, Y. J.M. van der Helm, A. J. Verbout, L. B. Creemers, W. J.A. Dhert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: In vitro models of chondrogenesis often depart from chondrocytes harvested from less-affected areas of osteoarthritic joints. However, there are indications that these chondrocytes are phenotypically different from chondrocytes from healthy joints and thus might differ in their capacity to generate hyaline cartilage. The goal of this study was to compare the chondrogenic capacity of chondrocytes from healthy and OA joints. Design: Chondrocytes isolated from nine healthy and nine OA knee joints were expanded in monolayer for two passages. Chondrocytes from passages 1 and 2 were analyzed for expression of (de)differentiation and hypertrophy markers and were seeded at passage 2 on collagen-coated filters for redifferentiation culture to study cartilage matrix formation. Results: The collagen II/I mRNA ratio, reflecting differentiation, decreased from passage 1 to 2 in both chondrocytes from OA joints and chondrocytes from healthy joints (P < 0.05), without a significant difference between the two donor types. At passage 1, levels of the cartilage transcription factors Sox-5, Sox-6 and Sox-9 appeared to be higher in chondrocytes from OA joints (n.s.), but this was not seen at passage 2. However, a clear difference was observed in collagen type X expression, which was high in chondrocytes from OA joints at both passages, while undetectable in chondrocytes from healthy joints (P < 0.01). Tissue generated by chondrocytes from healthy joints redifferentiated for 28 days, showed a significantly better morphology, as assessed by histological scoring (P < 0.01) and higher proteoglycan content (P < 0.05), compared to chondrocytes from OA joints. Matrix turnover parameters, i.e., proteoglycan synthesis and degradation rate, were not significantly affected by donor tissue origin. Conclusions: These results suggest that clear differences between chondrocytes from healthy and OA joints exist and that these are not completely abolished during the process of de- and redifferentiation. Therefore, in vitro cartilage regeneration models, which use chondrocytes from OA joints, should be interpreted with care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-570
Number of pages10
JournalOsteoarthritis and cartilage
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cartilage
  • Chondrocytes
  • Culture technique
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tissue engineering


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