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J Biomech. 2008;41(6):1153-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.01.026.

Mechanical and biochemical characterization of cartilage explants in serum-free culture.

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Cellular Engineering Laboratory, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


Allografts of articular cartilage are both used clinically for tissue-transplantation procedures and experimentally as model systems to study the physiological behavior of chondrocytes in their native extracellular matrix. Long-term maintenance of allograft tissue is challenging. Chemical mediators in poorly defined culture media can stimulate cells to quickly degrade their surrounding extracellular matrix. This is particularly true of juvenile cartilage which is generally more responsive to chemical stimuli than mature tissue. By carefully modulating the culture media, however, it may be possible to preserve allograft tissue over the long-term while maintaining its original mechanical and biochemical properties. In this study juvenile bovine cartilage explants (both chondral and osteochondral) were cultured in both chemically defined medium and serum-supplemented medium for up to 6 weeks. The mechanical properties and biochemical content of explants cultured in chemically defined medium were enhanced after 2 weeks in culture and thereafter remained stable with no loss of cell viability. In contrast, the mechanical properties of explants in serum-supplemented medium were degraded by ( approximately 70%) along with a concurrent loss of biochemical content (30-40% GAG). These results suggest that long-term maintenance of allografts can be extended significantly by the use of a chemically defined medium.

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