Chondrogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells encapsulated in alginate beads

J Biomed Mater Res A. 2003 Feb 1;64(2):273-81. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.10370.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have the capacity for self-renewal and can form bone, fat, and cartilage. Alginate forms a viscous solution when dissolved in 0.9% saline and gels on contact with divalent cations. The viability and phenotype maintenance of chondrocytes in alginate beads have been well documented. However, little is known about the effect of microencapsulation in alginate on chondrogenesis of MSCs. In this study, human MSCs encapsulated in alginate beads were cultured in serum-free medium with the addition of transforming growth factor (TGF)beta1 (10 ng/mL), dexamethasone (10(-7) M), and ascorbate 2-phosphate (50 microg/mL). The MSCs in alginate assumed a rounded morphology with lacunae around them after 1 week in culture. Cell aggregates were observed at 2 weeks or longer in culture. Histological findings agreed with the clinical determination of hyaline cartilage, characterized by isolated cells with ground substance positive in Safranin-O staining and immunohistochemistry for collagen type II at the periphery of cells. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) revealed the expression of COL2A1 and COL10A1, marker of chondrocytes and hypertrophy chondrocytes, respectively. These results indicate MSCs in alginate can form cartilage and the MSCs-alginate system represents a relevant model for the study of the molecular mechanisms involved in the chondrogenesis and endochondral ossification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alginates / chemistry*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Chondrogenesis / physiology*
  • Collagen Type II / metabolism
  • Drug Compounding
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mesoderm / cytology*
  • Mesoderm / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / ultrastructure


  • Alginates
  • Collagen Type II
  • Gels