Traumatic articular cartilage injuries heal poorly and may predispose patients to the early onset of osteoarthritis. One current treatment relies on surgical delivery of autologous chondrocytes that are prepared, prior to implantation, through ex vivo cell expansion of cartilage biopsy cells. The requirement for cell expansion, however, is both complex and expensive and has proven to be a major hurdle in achieving a widespread adoption of the treatment. This study presents evidence that autologous chondrocyte implantation can be delivered without requiring ex vivo cell expansion. The proposed improvement relies on mechanical fragmentation of cartilage tissue sufficient to mobilize embedded chondrocytes via increased tissue surface area. Our outgrowth study, which was used to demonstrate chondrocyte migration and growth, indicated that fragmented cartilage tissue is a rich source for chondrocyte redistribution. The chondrocytes outgrown into 3-D scaffolds also formed cartilage-like tissue when implanted in SCID mice. Direct treatment of full-thickness chondral defects in goats using cartilage fragments on a resorbable scaffold produced hyaline-like repair tissue at 6 months. Thus, delivery of chondrocytes in the form of cartilage tissue fragments in conjunction with appropriate polymeric scaffolds provides a novel intraoperative approach for cell-based cartilage repair.
(c) 2006 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.