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Arthritis Rheum. 2003 Feb;48(2):418-29.

Cartilage-like gene expression in differentiated human stem cell spheroids: a comparison of bone marrow-derived and adipose tissue-derived stromal cells.

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Orthopaedic Hospital/University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.



To compare the chondrogenic potential of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSC) and adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (ATSC), because the availability of an unlimited cell source replacing human chondrocytes could be strongly beneficial for cell therapy, tissue engineering, in vitro drug screening, and development of new therapeutic options to enhance the regenerative capacity of human cartilage.


Quantitative gene expression of common cartilage and cell interaction molecules was analyzed using complementary DNA array technology and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction during optimization of cell differentiation, in order to achieve a molecular phenotype similar to that of chondrocytes in cartilage.


The multilineage potential of BMSC and ATSC was similar according to cell morphology and histology, but minor differences in marker gene expression occurred in diverse differentiation pathways. Although chondrogenic differentiation of BMSC and ATSC was indistinguishable in monolayer and remained partial, only BMSC responded (with improved chondrogenesis) to a shift to high-density 3-dimensional cell culture, and reached a gene expression profile highly homologous to that of osteoarthritic (OA) cartilage.


Hypertrophy of chondrocytes and high matrix-remodeling activity in differentiated BMSC spheroids and in OA cartilage may be the basis for the strong similarities in gene expression profiles between these samples. Differentiated stem cell spheroids represent an attractive tool for use in drug development and identification of drug targets in OA cartilage-like tissue outside the human body. However, optimization of differentiation protocols to achieve the phenotype of healthy chondrocytes is desired for cell therapy and tissue engineering approaches.

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