METHODS: Medial femoral condyle defect was created in both knees of twenty-four mature New Zealand white rabbits, and the animals were divided into four groups containing six animals each. After 3 weeks, the right knees were transplanted with PVA-chitosan-MSC, PVA-chitosan scaffold alone, alginate-MSC construct or alginate alone. The left knee was kept as untreated control. Animals were killed at the end of 6 months after transplantation, and the cartilage repair was assessed through Brittberg morphological score, histological grading by O'Driscoll score and quantitative glycosaminoglycan analysis.
RESULTS: Morphological and histological analyses showed significant (p < 0.05) tissue repair when treated with PVA-chitosan-MSC or alginate MSC as compared to the scaffold only and untreated control. In addition, safranin O staining and the glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in MSC treatment groups than in scaffold-only or untreated control group. No significant difference was observed between the PVA-chitosan-MSC- and alginate-MSC-treated groups.
CONCLUSION: PVA-chitosan hydrogel seeded with mesenchymal stem cells provides comparable treatment outcomes to that of previously established alginate-MSC construct implantation. This study supports the potential use of PVA-chitosan hydrogel seeded with MSCs for clinical use in cartilage repair such as traumatic injuries.