The increasing prevalence of cartilage destruction during arthritis has entailed an intensified amount for in vitro cartilage models to analyze pathophysiological processes and to screen for antirheumatic drugs. Tissue engineering offers the opportunity to establish highly organized 3D cell cultures facilitating the formation of in vitro models that reflect the human situation. We report the comparison of porcine chondrocyte pellet and alginate bead cultures as model systems for human cartilage and the further development into a human system that was applied in an arthritis model. In porcine pellet and alginate cultures, formation of cartilage matrix similar to human matrix was verified by histology and PCR. As alginate beads could be cultivated batch-wise in one well of a multiwell plate, we further developed this setting into a human system. In contrast, each pellet had to be cultivated individually in one well of a multiwell plate, which is time consuming. Following stimulation of human chondrocyte alginate cultures with conditioned media from human synovial fibroblasts derived from arthritis patients, microarray analysis verified the induction of genes related to cartilage destruction (like MMP10, -12) and inflammation (like IL6, -8 and chemokines). Several genes are coding for proteins that are members of inflammatory and catabolic pathways. Belonging to the most affected pathways, we identified the focal adhesion, cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, ECM-receptor signalling, Jak-STAT signalling, and toll-like receptor signalling pathways, all relevant in arthritis. Therefore, we demonstrate that engineered cartilage of porcine and human origin represents a powerful in vitro model for cartilage in vivo.
(c) 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers