Previous reports have demonstrated the suitability of alginate microencapsulation for chondrogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in vitro. This study examined the MSCs-alginate constructs that were transplanted beneath the dorsal skin of nude mice for 8 weeks after a variety of in vitro culture periods. The in vitro culture had great effects on gross morphology and histological characteristics of transplants. The integrity of alginate of transplants increased as the in vitro culture period increased. Transplants were characterized by an opaque and yellowish color, fair burnish, a firm to elastic texture, but without any evidence of calcification spots. Histological findings agreed with the clinical determination of hyaline cartilage, characterized by isolated cells with basophilic ground substance positive in Safranin-O staining and collagen type II immunohistochemistry. Transplants with exposure to TGF-beta1 for more than 2 weeks before transplantation, lost burnish, were flexible in texture, and had an increased formation of calcification spots. Accordingly, 1-week exposure to TGF-beta1 in vitro before transplantation is appropriate for neocartilage formation of human MSCs in alginate. These findings suggested that regeneration using cell therapy or tissue engineering should assist in ascertaining the optimal timing of transplantation.
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