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Am J Sports Med. 2011 Jul;39(7):1401-12. doi: 10.1177/0363546511398646. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

Matrix-associated implantation of predifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells versus articular chondrocytes: in vivo results of cartilage repair after 1 year.

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Department of Trauma and Reconstructive Surgery, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.



The use of predifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) leads to better histological results compared with undifferentiated MSC in sheep. This raises the need for a longer term follow-up study and comparison with a clinically established method.


We hypothesized that chondrogenic in vitro predifferentiation of autologous MSC embedded in a collagen I hydrogel leads to better structural repair of a chronic osteochondral defect in an ovine stifle joint after 1 year. We further hypothesized that resulting histological results would be comparable with those of chondrocyte-seeded matrix-associated autologous chondrocyte transplantation (MACT).


Controlled laboratory study.


Predifferentiation period of ovine MSC within collagen gel in vitro was defined by assessment of several cellular and molecular biological parameters. For the animal study, 2 osteochondral lesions (7-mm diameter) were created at the medial femoral condyles of the hind legs in 9 sheep. Implantation of MSC gels was performed 6 weeks after defect creation. Thirty-six defects were divided into 4 treatment groups: (1) chondrogenically predifferentiated MSC gels (pre-MSC gels), (2) undifferentiated MSC gels (un-MSC gels), (3) MACT gels, and (4) untreated controls (UC). Histological, immunohistochemical, and radiological evaluations followed after 12 months.


After 12 months in vivo, pre-MSC gels showed significantly better histological outcome compared with un-MSC gels and UC. Compared with MACT gels, the overall scores were higher for O'Driscoll and International Cartilage Repair Society (ICRS). The repair tissue of the pre-MSC group showed immunohistochemical detection of interzonal collagen type II staining. Radiological evaluation supported superior bonding of pre-MSC gels to perilesional native cartilage. Compared with previous work by our group, no degradation of the repair tissue between 6 and 12 months in vivo, particularly in pre-MSC gels, was observed.


Repair of chronic osteochondral defects with collagen hydrogels composed of chondrogenically predifferentiated MSC shows no signs of degradation after 1 year in vivo. In addition, pre-MSC gels lead to partially superior histological results compared with articular chondrocytes.


The results suggest an encouraging method for future treatment of focal osteochondral defects without donor site morbidity by harvesting articular chondrocytes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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