Abstract Treatment of focal lesions of the articular cartilage of the knee using chondrocytes in a hyaluronic acid (HA) scaffold is already being investigated in clinical trials. An alternative may be to use mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). We have compared articular chondrocytes with MSC from human bone marrow (BM) and adipose tissue (AT), all cultured in HA scaffolds, for their ability to express genes and synthesize proteins associated with chondrogenesis. The cells were expanded in monolayer cultures. After seeding into the scaffold, the chondrocytes were maintained in medium, while the two MSC populations were given a chondrogenic differentiation medium. Chondrogenesis was assessed by real-time RT-PCR for chondrocyte-associated genes, by immunohistochemistry and by ELISA for collagens in the supernatant. Redifferentiation of the dedifferentiated chondrocytes in the HA scaffold was shown by a modest increase in type II collagen mRNA (COL2A1) and reduction in COL1A1. BMMSC expressed 600-fold higher levels of COL2A1 than chondrocytes after 3 weeks in the scaffold. The levels of aggrecan (AGC1) and COL1A1 were similar for chondrocyte and BM-MSC scaffold cultures, while COL10A1 was higher in the BM-MSC. AT-MSC expressed levels of COL2A1 and COL1A1 similar to chondrocytes, but less AGC1 and COL10A1. Surprisingly, little collagen II protein was observed in the scaffold. Instead, collagen II was found in the culture medium. Chondrogenesis in HA scaffolds was more efficient using BM-MSC than AT-MSC or chondrocytes. Some of the secreted collagen II escaped entrapment in the extracellular space and was detected in the culture medium.
Keywords Chondrocytes Mesenchymal stem cells MSC Chondrogenesis Hyaluronic acid scaffold Type II collagen