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Eur Cell Mater. 2012 Jul 24;24:118-35; discussion 135.

Molecular and biophysical mechanisms regulating hypertrophic differentiation in chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells.

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  • 1Cartilage Engineering + Regeneration Laboratory, Department of Health, Science and Technology, ETH Zürich, Switzerland.


Chondrocyte hypertrophy is one of the key physiological processes involved in the longitudinal growth of long bones, yet the regulation of hypertrophy is also becoming increasingly relevant for clinical application of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and screening for drugs to treat hypertrophic osteoarthritis. The extraordinary cell volume increase during hypertrophy is accompanied by an up-regulation of collagen X, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), all which are targets of the runt-related transcription factor 2 (Runx2). Many pathways, including parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP)/Indian Hedgehog, Wingless/Int (Wnt)/β-catenin, and transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β)/Sma and Mad Related Family (Smad) pathways, can regulate hypertrophy, but factors as diverse as hypoxia, co-culture, epigenetics and biomaterial composition can also potently affect Runx2 expression. Control of hypertrophic differentiation can be exploited both for cartilage repair, where a stable phenotype is desired, but also in bone regeneration, where hypertrophic cartilage could act as a template for endochondral bone formation. We hope this review will motivate the design of novel engineered microenvironments for skeletal regeneration applications.

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