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Tissue Eng. 2001 Dec;7(6):805-15.

Cultured chondrocytes produce injectable tissue-engineered cartilage in hydrogel polymer.

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Division of Plastic Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


The purpose of this study was to determine if chondrocytes cultured through several subcultures at very low plating density would produce new cartilage matrix after being reimplanted in vivo with or without a hydrogel polymer scaffold. Chondrocytes were initially plated in low-density monolayer culture, grown to confluence, and passaged four times. After each passage cells were suspended in purified porcine fibrinogen and injected into the subcutaneous space of nude mice while simultaneously polymerizing with thrombin to reach a final concentration of 40 million cells/cc. Controls were made by injecting fresh, uncultured cells with fibrin polymer and by injecting the cultured cells in saline (without polymer). All samples were harvested at 6 weeks. When injected in polymer, both fresh cells and cells that had undergone only one passage in culture produced cartilaginous nodules. Cultured cells did not produce cartilage, regardless of length of time spent in culture, when injected without polymer. Cartilage was also not recovered from samples with cells kept in culture for longer than one passage, even when provided with a polymer matrix. All samples harvested were subjected to histological analysis and assayed for total DNA, glycosaminoglycan (GAG), and type II collagen. There was histological evidence of cartilage in the groups that used fresh cells and cultured cells suspended in fibrin polymer that only underwent one passage. No other group contained areas that would be consistent with cartilage histologically. All experimental samples had a higher percent of DNA than native swine cartilage, and there was no statistical difference between the DNA content of the groups containing cultured or fresh cells in fibrin polymer. Whereas the GAG content of native cartilage was 8.39% of dry weight and fresh cells in fibrin polymer was 12.85%, cultured cells in fibrin polymer never exceded the 2.48% noted from first passage cells. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that porcine chondrocytes that have been cultured in monolayer for one passage will produce cartilage in vivo when suspended in fibrin polymer.

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