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Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2012 Dec;20(12):1647-56. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2012.08.009. Epub 2012 Aug 21.

Icariin: a potential promoting compound for cartilage tissue engineering.

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National Engineering Research Center for Biomaterials, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China.



To investigate whether icariin, which is a widely used pharmacological constituent in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, can be a potential promoting compound for cartilage tissue engineering.


Icariin was added into cell-hydrogel constructs derived from neonatal rabbit chondrocytes and collagen type I. The chondrogenic gene expressions and the synthesis of cartilage matrix of the seeded cells were detected by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) and Biochemical assay. The effects of icariin-added cell-hydrogel constructs on the restoration of supercritical-sized osteochondral defects of adult rabbit were investigated by histological observation. The cell-hydrogel constructs without Icariin were set for controls.


Icariin obviously up-regulate the expressions included aggrecan, sox9, and collagen type II of seeded chondrocytes from 99.7% to 248%. It increases the synthesis of glycosaminoglycan and collagen type II about fourfold to fivefolds from week 1 to week 4, and accelerates the formation of chondroid tissue in the cell-hydrogel constructs. Even, it improves the restoration efficiency of supercritical-sized osteochondral defects in adult rabbit model, and enhances the integration of new-formed cartilage with subchondral bone.


Icariin can be a potential promoting compound for cartilage tissue engineering, and it can be a substitute for the use of some growth factors. The long history and extensive cases of safe use in China, Japan and Korea make it more attractive.

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