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J Orthop Res. 2005 Nov;23(6):1383-9. Epub 2005 Jun 3.

Chondrogenic potential of progenitor cells derived from human bone marrow and adipose tissue: a patient-matched comparison.

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  • 1Department of Orthopaedics, Case Western Reserve University/University Hospitals of Cleveland, USA.



Stem cell-based tissue engineering represents a possible alternative for the repair of cartilage defects. Both bone marrow and adipose tissue contain pluripotential cells capable of chondrogenesis. This study was a qualitative and quantitative comparison of the chondrogenic potential of progenitor cells isolated from bone marrow aspirates and adipose tissue.


Bone marrow aspirates (BM) and matching adipose tissue (AD) overlying the posterior superior iliac crest were obtained from patients undergoing elective spine surgery. Chondrogenesis was induced using an established aggregate culture technique. Qualitative analysis was performed by histology and immunohistochemistry. DNA and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) quantitative assays were performed. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis was performed to compare expression of type II collagen between BM and AD aggregates. Osteogenic and adipogenic assays were also performed to confirm pluripotentiality of both AD-derived progenitor cells (ADPC) and BM-derived progenitor cells (BMPC).


Toluidine blue metachromasia and type II collagen immunohistochemical staining were more extensive in the aggregates formed by BMPC. Quantitative RT-PCR showed a 500-5000 fold higher expression of type II collagen in the BMPC aggregates. The DNA content was 68% higher in the AD aggregates (p<0.02) but proteoglycan deposition per cell was 120% greater for BM-derived cell aggregates as measured by GAG assays (p<0.05).


The tissue formed by the aggregate culture of the expanded ADPC population was less cartilaginous. It is unclear whether this is because there are fewer chondroprogenitor cells or if the monolayer expansion culture favors cells with higher proliferative rates but without differentiation potential. Under the conditions described in this study, BMPCs may represent a better choice for progenitor cell-based strategies for cartilage repair.

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