Cartilage from the edge of a debrided articular defect is inferior to that from a standard donor site when used for autologous chondrocyte cultivation

J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2011 Mar;93(3):421-6. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.93B3.25675.


The aim of this study was to evaluate the cultivation potential of cartilage taken from the debrided edge of a chronic lesion of the articular surface. A total of 14 patients underwent arthroscopy of the knee for a chronic lesion on the femoral condyles or trochlea. In addition to the routine cartilage biopsy, a second biopsy of cartilage was taken from the edge of the lesion. The cells isolated from both sources underwent parallel cultivation as monolayer and three-dimensional (3D) alginate culture. The cell yield, viability, capacity for proliferation, morphology and the expressions of typical cartilage genes (collagen I, COL1; collagen II, COL2; aggrecan, AGR; and versican, VER) were assessed. The cartilage differentiation indices (COL2/COL1, AGR/VER) were calculated. The control biopsies revealed a higher mean cell yield (1346 cells/mg vs 341 cells/mg), but similar cell proliferation, viability and morphology compared with the cells from the edge of the lesion. The cartilage differentiation indices were superior in control cells: COL2/COL1 (threefold in biopsies (non-significant)); sixfold in monolayer cultures (p = 0.012), and 7.5-fold in hydrogels (non-significant), AGR/VER (sevenfold in biopsies (p = 0.04), threefold (p = 0.003) in primary cultures and 3.5-fold in hydrogels (non-significant)). Our results suggest that the cultivation of chondrocytes solely from the edges of the lesion cannot be recommended for use in autologous chondrocyte implantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthroscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Cartilage, Articular / pathology*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Shape
  • Chondrocytes / pathology*
  • Chondrocytes / transplantation
  • Debridement
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Tissue and Organ Harvesting / methods*
  • Young Adult