Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) is an established technique to repair joint surface defects. Although there is some indirect evidence that the expanded chondrocytes are required to achieve proper healing, the role they play in the repair process is not clear yet. To monitor the persistence and the phenotype of the injected chondrocytes in the repair tissue (RT) we have optimized a fluorescent labeling protocol for articular chondrocytes, which allows cell tracking in vivo for up to 14 weeks, using the fluorescent dye PKH26. We have combined in vivo cell tracking, with the immune-detection of collagen type II protein in a goat model of ACI. Our data indicate that the implanted cells can persist for at least 14 weeks in the defects, can participate in the integration with the surrounding tissues, and become structural part of the RT, rich in collagen type II and sulfated proteoglycans. Albeit with a small number of samples, our data provide proof of principal that the implanted chondrocytes can contribute to structural cartilage repair in a goat model of ACI.
© 2002 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.