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Keywords:

  • gene transfer;
  • mesenchymal cells;
  • cartilage repair;
  • bone marrow;
  • periosteum;
  • fat

Abstract

Background

Adult primary mesenchymal cells of different origin which can be obtained with minor donor site morbidity are considered for articular cartilage repair. This study aims at a comparison of their chondrogenic potential.

Methods

Mesenchymal cells were isolated from perichondrium/periosteum, bone marrow or fat of adult rats and found to be positive for the stem-cell-related antigens Sca-1, c-Kit, CD10, CD13 and CD90 by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Chondrogenic differentiation was induced by applying recombinant bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) or adenoviral vectors carrying BMP-2 cDNA, followed by micromass culture. The stimulated cells were characterized by RT-PCR, cell proliferation and apoptosis assays. Expression of aggrecan, collagen type I, II, IX and X and alkaline phosphatase genes was analyzed by RT-PCR, immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry in comparison with unstimulated control cells. Adenovirally stimulated cells were transplanted into mechanically generated partial-thickness cartilage lesions in the patellar groove of the rat femur. Quality and integration of the repair tissues were assessed by histochemical and immunohistochemical methods.

Results

Stimulation with BMP-2 or AdBMP-2 led to an up-regulation of cartilage-specific gene expression in all three cell populations studied, most rapidly and prominently in the perichondrial/periosteal cells, which showed a 3200-fold increase of type II collagen mRNA and reached the highest absolute levels of type II and IX collagen transcripts after stimulation. Similar results were obtained for the bone marrow stromal cells (BMSC), while the respective transcript levels in fat stromal cells declined after an initial more than 30-fold elevation. Following transplantation in vivo, AdBMP-2-infected perichondrial/periosteal cells produced a proteoglycan-rich, type II collagen-positive matrix with only faint staining for type I collagen. The repair tissue originating from AdBMP-2-infected BMSC showed less intense type II collagen staining, but a relatively proteoglycan-rich matrix, weakly positive for type I collagen. Transgene-activated fat stromal cells formed rather fibrous tissue mainly composed of type I collagen. Unstimulated cells of the three different populations gave only rise to fibrous tissue.

Conclusions

Perichondrium/periosteum-derived cells and BMSC seem superior to cells isolated from fat with respect to forming hyaline cartilaginous tissue. A chondrogenic stimulus, e.g. by transfer of BMP-2 cDNA, appears to be required for initiation and support of chondrogenic differentiation. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.