Synovial mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are an attractive cell source for cartilage regeneration because of their high chondrogenic ability. In this study, we examined the synovium of patients with medial compartment knee osteoarthritis (OA) to determine the proportion of MSCs in relation to cellular compartmentalization, and to identify the culture parameters that could affect the chondrogenic potential of synovial MSCs.


Human synovium was collected from 4 different harvest sites in the knees of patients with medial compartment OA. Each synovial tissue sample was divided into 2 parts, one for histologic assessment and the other for analysis of the cell size, surface epitopes, and chondrogenic potential of colony-forming cells in vitro.


The numbers of α-smooth muscle actin–positive vessels and CD31+ endothelial cells were higher in the medial outer region than in the other regions of OA synovial tissue. The numbers of these cells correlated with the number of colony-forming cells. In parallel with increasing duration of the preculture period, the size of the cells increased, while the chondrogenic potential decreased, and this was correlated with expression of CD90.


Medial compartment knee OA demonstrates variability in the distribution of vessels, which results in a varying distribution of MSCs. The preculture period should be utilized to assess both the potential for expansion and the chondrogenic potential of MSCs.