Methods: The OACs were expanded from passage 0 (P0) to P3, and cells in each passage were analyzed for gross morphology, growth rate, RNA expression and immunochemistry (IHC). The harvested OACs were assigned into two groups: low (1×10 cells/ml) and high (3×10 cells/ml) cell density. Three-dimensional (3D) constructs for each group were created using polymerised fibrin and cultured for 7, 14 and 21 days in vitro using chondrocyte growth medium. OAC constructs were analyzed with gross assessments and microscopic evaluation using standard histology, IHC and immunofluorescence staining, in addition to gene expression and biochemical analyses to evaluate tissue development.
Results: Constructs with a high seeding density of 3×10 cells/ml were associated with better quality cartilage-like tissue than those seeded with 1×10 cells/ml based on overall tissue formation, cell association and extracellular matrix distribution. The chondrogenic properties of the constructs were further confirmed by the expression of genes encoding aggrecan core protein and collagen type II.
Interpretation & conclusions: Our results confirmed that cell density was a significant factor affecting cell behaviour and aggregate production, and this was important for establishing good quality cartilage.