• Mesenchymal stem cells;
  • Differentiation;
  • Isolation;
  • Chondrogenic differentiation;
  • Age-related;
  • Etiology


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a multifactorial disease strongly correlated with history of joint trauma, joint dysplasia, and advanced age. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are promising cells for biological cartilage regeneration. Conflicting data have been published concerning the availability of MSCs from the iliac crest, depending on age and overall physical fitness. Here, we analyzed whether the availability and chondrogenic differentiation capacity of MSCs isolated from the femoral shaft as an alternative source is age- or OA etiology-dependent. MSCs were isolated from the bone marrow (BM) of 98 patients, categorized into three OA-etiology groups (age-related, joint trauma, joint dysplasia) at the time of total hip replacement. All BM samples were characterized for cell yield, proliferation capacity, and phenotype. Chondrogenic differentiation was studied using micromass culture and analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Significant volumes of viable BM (up to 25 ml) could be harvested from the femoral shaft without observing donor-site morbidity, typically containing >107 mononuclear cells per milliliter. No correlation of age or OA etiology with the number of mononuclear cells in BM, MSC yield, or cell size was found. Proliferative capacity and cellular spectrum of the harvested cells were independent of age and cause of OA. From all tested donors, MSCs could be differentiated into the chondrogenic lineage. We conclude that, irrespective of age and OA etiology, sufficient numbers of MSCs can be isolated and that these cells possess an adequate chondrogenic differentiation potential. Therefore, a therapeutic application of MSCs for cartilage regeneration of OA lesions seems feasible.

Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.