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J Cell Physiol. 2018 Mar;233(3):1940-1951. doi: 10.1002/jcp.26020. Epub 2017 Sep 8.

Co-culture systems-based strategies for articular cartilage tissue engineering.

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Institute of Orthopaedics, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing Key Lab of Regenerative Medicine in Orthopaedics, Key Laboratory of Musculoskeletal Trauma & War Injuries, PLA, Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Institute of Anesthesia, Chinese PLA General Hospital, Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Anhui Provincial Hospital, Hefei, People's Republic of China.
Academy for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, Peking University, Beijing, People's Republic of China.
Shanxi Traditional Chinese, Taiyuan, People's Republic of China.
School of Medicine, Naikai University, Tianjin, People's Republic of China.


Cartilage engineering facilitates repair and regeneration of damaged cartilage using engineered tissue that restores the functional properties of the impaired joint. The seed cells used most frequently in tissue engineering, are chondrocytes and mesenchymal stem cells. Seed cells activity plays a key role in the regeneration of functional cartilage tissue. However, seed cells undergo undesirable changes after in vitro processing procedures, such as degeneration of cartilage cells and induced hypertrophy of mesenchymal stem cells, which hinder cartilage tissue engineering. Compared to monoculture, which does not mimic the in vivo cellular environment, co-culture technology provides a more realistic microenvironment in terms of various physical, chemical, and biological factors. Co-culture technology is used in cartilage tissue engineering to overcome obstacles related to the degeneration of seed cells, and shows promise for cartilage regeneration and repair. In this review, we focus first on existing co-culture systems for cartilage tissue engineering and related fields, and discuss the conditions and mechanisms thereof. This is followed by methods for optimizing seed cell co-culture conditions to generate functional neo-cartilage tissue, which will lead to a new era in cartilage tissue engineering.


articular cartilage; chondrocytes; co-culture; mesenchymal stem cells; tissue engineering

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