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Am J Sports Med. 2010 Jan;38(1):78-85. doi: 10.1177/0363546509354197. Epub 2009 Dec 3.

Effects of dexamethasone on the functional properties of cartilage explants during long-term culture.

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  • 1Cellular Engineering Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, 1210 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA.



Intact articular cartilage tissue is used clinically in the form of osteochondral allografts and experimentally as explants in modeling the physiologic behavior of chondrocytes in their native extracellular matrix. Long-term maintenance of allograft tissue is challenging.


By carefully modulating the preservation environment, it may be possible to preserve osteochondral allograft tissue over the long term while maintaining its original mechanical and biochemical properties.


Controlled laboratory study.


In this study, juvenile bovine, mature bovine, and canine cartilage explants were cultured in chemically defined media with or without supplementation of dexamethasone for up to 4 weeks.


The mechanical properties and biochemical content of juvenile bovine explants cultured in the presence of dexamethasone were significantly enhanced after 2 weeks in culture and remained stable with sustained cell viability thereafter. In contrast, the mechanical properties and biochemical content of juvenile bovine explants cultured in the absence of the dexamethasone significantly decreased after 2 weeks of culture. The mechanical and biochemical content of mature bovine and canine explants were not significantly affected by the presence of dexamethasone and maintained initial (day 0) mechanical and biochemical properties throughout the entire culture period with or without supplementation of dexamethasone.


These results suggest that juvenile and mature cartilage explants respond differently to dexamethasone. The functional properties of juvenile cartilage explants can be maintained in vitro through the addition of dexamethasone to culture media. Functional properties of mature cartilage can be preserved for at least 4 weeks in culture regardless of the presence of dexamethasone.


Biochemical and biomechanical properties of osteochondral allograft tissue may be enhanced by the addition of dexamethasone to culture media. These findings may translate to longer shelf life of preserved osteochondral allograft transplantation tissue and increased clinical availability of grafts.

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