Hyaline cartilage engineered by chondrocytes in pellet culture: histological, immunohistochemical and ultrastructural analysis in comparison with cartilage explants


Dr Zijun Zhang, Laboratory of Genetics, NIH/National Institute on Aging, 333 Cassell Drive, Suite 3000, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA. T: +1 410 558 8317; F: +1 410 558 8087; E: zhangzj@grc.nia.nih.gov


Cartilage engineering is a strategic experimental goal for the treatment of multiple joint diseases. Based on the process of embryonic chondrogenesis, we hypothesized that cartilage could be engineered by condensing chondrocytes in pellet culture and, in the present study, examined the quality of regenerated cartilage in direct comparison with native cartilage. Chondrocytes isolated from the sterna of chick embryos were cultured in pellets (4 × 106 cells per pellet) for 2 weeks. Cartilage explants from the same source were cultured as controls. After 2 weeks, the regenerated cartilage from pellet culture had a disc shape and was on average 9 mm at the longest diameter. The chondrocyte phenotype was stabilized in pellet culture as shown by the synthesis of type II collagen and aggrecan, which was the same intensity as in the explant after 7 days in culture. During culture, chondrocytes also continuously synthesized type IX collagen. Type X collagen was negatively stained in both pellets and explants. Except for fibril orientation, collagen fibril diameter and density in the engineered cartilage were comparable with the native cartilage. In conclusion, hyaline cartilage engineered by chondrocytes in pellet culture, without the transformation of cell phenotypes and scaffold materials, shares similarities with native cartilage in cellular distribution, matrix composition and density, and ultrastructure.