Ovine articular chondrocytes were isolated from cartilage biopsy and culture expanded in vitro. Approximately 30 million cells per ml of cultured chondrocytes were incorporated with autologous plasma-derived fibrin to form a three-dimensional construct. Full-thickness punch hole defects were created in the lateral and medial femoral condyles. The defects were implanted with either an autologous 'chondrocyte-fibrin' construct (ACFC), autologous chondrocytes (ACI) or fibrin blanks (AF) as controls. Animals were killed after 12 weeks. The gross appearance of the treated defects was inspected and photographed. The repaired tissues were studied histologically and by scanning electron microscopy analysis. All defects were assessed using the International Cartilage Repair Society (ICRS) classification. Those treated with ACFC, ACI and AF exhibited median scores which correspond to a nearly-normal appearance. On the basis of the modified O'Driscoll histological scoring scale, ACFC implantation significantly enhanced cartilage repair compared to ACI and AF. Using scanning electron microscopy, ACFC and ACI showed characteristic organisation of chondrocytes and matrices, which were relatively similar to the surrounding adjacent cartilage. Implantation of ACFC resulted in superior hyaline-like cartilage regeneration when compared with ACI. If this result is applicable to humans, a better outcome would be obtained than by using conventional ACI.
Chondrogenic differentiated mesenchymal stem cells (CMSCs) have been shown to produce superior chondrogenic expression markers in vitro. However, the use of these cells in vivo has not been fully explored. In this study, in vivo assessment of cartilage repair potential between allogenic-derived chondrogenic pre-differentiated mesenchymal stem cells and undifferentiated MSCs (MSCs) were compared. Bilateral full thickness cartilage defects were created on the medial femoral condyles of 12 rabbits (n = 12). Rabbits were divided into two groups. In one group, the defects in the right knees were repaired using alginate encapsulated MSCs while in the second group, CMSCs were used. The animals were sacrificed and the repaired and control knees were assessed at 3 and 6 months after implantation. Quantitative analysis was performed by measuring the Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)/total protein content. The mean Brittberg score was higher in the transplanted knees as compared to the untreated knee at 6 months (p 0.05). This study demonstrates that the use of either MSC or CMSC produced superior healing when compared to cartilage defects that were untreated. However, both cells produced comparable treatment outcomes.