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J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2013 Dec;7(12):965-73. doi: 10.1002/term.1489. Epub 2012 Mar 31.

Matrix formation is enhanced in co-cultures of human meniscus cells with bone marrow stromal cells.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T6G 2E1.


The ultimate aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of using human bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) to supplement meniscus cells for meniscus tissue engineering and regeneration. Human menisci were harvested from three patients undergoing total knee replacements. Meniscus cells were released from the menisci after collagenase treatment. BMSCs were harvested from the iliac crest of three patients and were expanded in culture until passage 2. Primary meniscus cells and BMSCs were co-cultured in vitro in three-dimensional (3D) pellet culture at three different cell-cell ratios for 3 weeks under normal (21% O2 ) or low (3% O2 ) oxygen tension in the presence of serum-free chondrogenic medium. Pure BMSCs and pure meniscus cell pellets served as control groups. The tissue generated was assessed biochemically, histochemically and by quantitative RT-PCR. Co-cultures of primary meniscus cells and BMSCs resulted in tissue with increased (1.3-1.7-fold) deposition of proteoglycan (GAG) extracellular matrix (ECM) relative to tissues derived from BMSCs or meniscus cells alone under 21% O2 . GAG matrix formation was also enhanced (1.3-1.6-fold) under 3% O2 culture conditions. Alcian blue staining of generated tissue confirmed increased deposition of GAG-rich matrix. mRNA expression of type I collagen (COL1A2), type II collagen (COL2A1) and aggrecan were upregulated in co-cultured pellets. However, SOX9 and HIF-1α mRNA expression were not significantly modulated by co-culture. Co-culture of primary meniscus cells with BMSCs resulted in increased ECM formation. Co-delivery of meniscus cells and BMSCs can, in principle, be used in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine strategies to repair meniscus defects.


chondrogenesis; co-cultures; hypoxia; meniscus cells; meniscus regeneration; stem cells; tissue engineering

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