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Keywords:

  • cartilage integration;
  • cartilage healing;
  • osteochondral grafting;
  • autologous osteochondral grafting;
  • osteochondral model

Abstract

Integration of the host–graft interface is implicated as one of the significant reasons for lack of complete healing in osteochondral grafting procedures for the treatment of cartilage lesions. We developed an in vitro model of cartilage healing in an osteochondral setting to study the effect of developmental age and collagenase treatment. Circular full-thickness vertical surgical incisions were made in the cartilaginous portion of cylindrical bovine osteochondral specimens. Two age groups were selected: Young (1–2 months old) and Older (6–8 months old). Cartilage integration across the surgical incisions was assessed by histologic analysis and by mechanical push-out testing at 2 and 4 weeks in culture. Histologic integration as well as peak push-out shear stress was significantly higher in older calf cartilage than in the young calf. Collagenase pretreatment in the older calf samples increased push-out strength at 4 weeks. Histologic integration correlated well with the mechanical push-out strength. Developmental age and time after injury affected the response to collagenase pretreatment. This osteochondral cartilage integration model can be useful to study factors that modulate healing of surgical replacement procedures in vitro, which may aid the development of newer approaches to promote the healing of cartilage defects. © 2007 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 25:1136–1144, 2007