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Repair Of Chronic Osteochondral Defects Using Predifferentiated Mesenchymal Stem Cells In An Ovine Model

Matthias Zscharnack, Pierre Hepp, Robert Richter, Thomas Aigner, Ronny M. Schulz, Jeremy S Somerson, Christoph Josten, Augustinus Bader, Bastian Marquaß
Published 2010 · Medicine
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Background: The use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to treat osteochondral defects caused by sports injuries or disease is of particular interest. However, there is a lack of studies in large-animal models examining the benefits of chondrogenic predifferentiation in vitro for repair of chronic osteochondral defects. Hypothesis: Chondrogenic in vitro predifferentiation of autologous MSCs embedded in a collagen I hydrogel currently in clinical trial use for matrix-associated autologous chondrocyte transplantation facilitates the regeneration of a chronic osteochondral defect in an ovine stifle joint. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: The optimal predifferentiation period of ovine MSCs within the type I collagen hydrogel in vitro was defined by assessment of several cellular and molecular biological parameters. For the animal study, osteochondral lesions (diameter 7 mm) were created at the medial femoral condyles of the hind legs in 10 merino sheep. To achieve a chronic defect model, implantation of the ovine MSCs/hydrogel constructs was not performed until 6 weeks after defect creation. The 40 defects were divided into 4 treatment groups: (1) chondrogenically predifferentiated ovine MSC/hydrogel constructs (preMSC-gels), (2) undifferentiated ovine MSC/hydrogel constructs (unMSC-gels), (3) cell-free collagen hydrogels (CF-gels), and (4) untreated controls (UCs). Evaluation followed after 6 months. Results: With regard to proteoglycan content, cell count, gel contraction, apoptosis, compressive properties, and progress of chondrogenic differentiation, a differentiation period of 14 days in vitro was considered optimal. After 6 months in vivo, the defects treated with preMSC-gels showed significantly better histologic scores with morphologic characteristics of hyaline cartilage such as columnarization and presence of collagen type II. Conclusion: Matrix-associated autologous chondrocyte transplantation with predifferentiated MSCs may be a promising approach for repair of focal, chronic osteochondral defects. Clinical Relevance: The results suggest an encouraging method for future treatment of focal osteochondral defects to prevent progression to osteoarthritis.
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