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Ann Plast Surg. 2013 May;70(5):568-73. doi: 10.1097/SAP.0b013e31827ed6f4.

Effects of connective tissue growth factor on the regulation of elastogenesis in human umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells.

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Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.



A key to clinical microtia reconstruction is construct flexibility. The most significant current limitation to engineered elastic cartilage is maintaining an elastic phenotype, which is principally dependent on elastin production (although other parameters, including maintenance of a ratio above 1 for collagens II to I, minimizing collagen X content, and presence of adequate matrix fibrillin for elastin binding, all play supporting roles). Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), a compound secreted by chondrocytes, has been shown to promote an elastic phenotype in mature rabbit chondrocytes; however, CTGF effect on undifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has not been characterized. The principal aim of this study is to analyze CTGF effect on elastin production in umbilical cord (UC)-derived MSCs and to determine optimal timing of treatment to maximize elastin production.


Human UCMSCs (hUCMSCs) were isolated from Wharton jelly using an explant technique, grown to passage 3, seeded onto nanofiber scaffolds, and chondroinduced for 21 days. Nanofiber scaffolds were electrospun using solubilized poly L-lactide/D-lactide/glycolide (PLGA). Chondrogenic media was supplemented with 25 μg/mL CTGF starting at day 0 or 7. Messenger RNA (mRNA) for Collagen I, II, X, fibrillin, and elastin was quantified by RT-PCR; glycosaminoglycan (GAG) matrix deposition was assessed and normalized by cellular DNA content. Elastin protein was assessed by Western blot analysis. All experiments were performed in triplicate with MSCs from 4 distinct cords. Multiway analysis of variance with Newman-Keuls post test was used to determine statistical significance.


Connective tissue growth factor treatment results in increased GAG/DNA ratio; the differentiation index was maintained above 1 in all conditions, with increased collage II noted at days 7 and 14 in CTGF conditions; no difference in collagen X or fibrillin mRNA was noted. Increased elastin mRNA and protein were noted at day 14 in conditions treated with CTGF at day 7 after differentiation.


Connective tissue growth factor leads to maximal elastin increase in UCMSCs after 7 days of chondroinduction and not in undifferentiated MSCs. With appropriately timed treatment, CTGF may be a useful adjunct in maintaining an elastic cartilage phenotype in engineered cartilage from human UCMSCs.

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