Single-Stage Cell-Based Cartilage Regeneration Using a Combination of Chondrons and Mesenchymal Stromal Cells: Comparison With Microfracture

J.E.J. Bekkers, A.I. Tsuchida, M.H.P. van Rijen, L.A. Vonk, W.J.A. Dhert, Daniël B.F. Saris

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Background: Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) is traditionally a 2-step procedure used to repair focal articular cartilage lesions. With use of a combination of chondrons (chondrocytes in their own territorial matrix) and mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), ACI could be innovated and performed in a single step, as sufficient cells would be available to fill the defect within a 1-step surgical procedure. Chondrons have been shown to have higher regenerative capacities than chondrocytes without such a pericellular matrix. Purpose: To evaluate cartilage formation by a combination of chondrons and MSCs in vitro and in both small and large animal models. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: Chondrons and MSCs were cultured at different ratios in vitro containing 0%, 5%, 10%, 20%, 50%, or 100% chondrons (n = 3); embedded in injectable fibrin glue (Beriplast); and implanted subcutaneously in nude mice (n = 10; ratios of 0%, 5%, 10%, and 20% chondrons). Also, in a 1-step procedure, a combination of chondrons and MSCs was implanted in a freshly created focal articular cartilage lesion (10% chondrons) in goats (n = 8) and compared with microfracture. The effect of both treatments, after 6-month follow-up, was evaluated using biochemical glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and GAG/DNA analysis and scored using validated scoring systems for macroscopic and microscopic defect repairs. Results: The addition of MSCs to chondron cultures enhanced cartilage-specific matrix production as reflected by a higher GAG production (P < .03), both in absolute levels and normalized to DNA content, compared with chondrocyte and 100% chondron cultures. Similar results were observed after 4 weeks of subcutaneous implantation in nude mice. Treatment of freshly created cartilage defects in goats using a combination of chondrons and MSCs in Beriplast resulted in better microscopic, macroscopic, and biochemical cartilage regeneration (P ≤ .02) compared with microfracture treatment. Conclusion: The combination of chondrons and MSCs increased cartilage matrix formation, and this combination of cells was safely applied in a goat model for focal cartilage lesions, outperforming microfracture. Clinical Relevance: This study describes the bench-to-preclinical development of a new cell-based regenerative treatment for focal articular cartilage defects that outperforms microfracture in goats. In addition, it is a single-step procedure, thereby making the expensive cell expansion and reimplantation of dedifferentiated cells, as in ACI, redundant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2158-2166
JournalAmerican journal of sports medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2013


  • IR-86453
  • METIS-296807


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