Insulin, ascorbate, and glucose have a much greater influence than transferrin and selenous acid on the in vitro growth of engineered cartilage in chondrogenic media

Tissue Eng Part A. 2013 Sep;19(17-18):1941-8. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2012.0596. Epub 2013 May 30.


The primary goal of this study was to characterize the response of chondrocyte-seeded agarose constructs to varying concentrations of several key nutrients in a chondrogenic medium, within the overall context of optimizing the key nutrients and the placement of nutrient channels for successful growth of cartilage tissue constructs large enough to be clinically relevant in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA). To this end, chondrocyte-agarose constructs (ø4×2.34 mm, 30×10(6) cells/mL) were subjected to varying supplementation levels of insulin (0× to 30× relative to standard supplementation), transferrin (0× to 30×), selenous acid (0× to 10×), ascorbate (0× to 30×), and glucose (0× to 3×). The quality of resulting engineered tissue constructs was evaluated by their compressive modulus (E(-Y)), tensile modulus (E(+Y)), hydraulic permeability (k), and content of sulfated glycosaminoglycans (sGAG) and collagen (COL); DNA content was also quantified. Three control groups from two separate castings of constructs (1× concentrations of all medium constituents) were used. After 42 days of culture, values in each of these controls were, respectively, E(-Y)=518±78, 401±113, 236±67 kPa; E(+Y)=1420±430, 1140±490, 1240±280 kPa; k=2.3±0.8×10(-3), 5.4±7.0×10(-3), 3.3±1.3×10(-3) mm(4)/N·s; sGAG=7.8±0.3, 6.3±0.4, 4.1±0.5%/ww; COL=1.3±0.2, 1.1±0.3, 1.4±0.4%/ww; and DNA=11.5±2.2, 12.1±0.6, 5.2±2.8 μg/disk. The presence of insulin and ascorbate was essential, but their concentrations may drop as low as 0.3× without detrimental effects on any of the measured properties; excessive supplementation of ascorbate (up to 30×) was detrimental to E(-Y), and 30× insulin was detrimental to both E(+Y) and E(-Y). The presence of glucose was similarly essential, and matrix elaboration was significantly dependent on its concentration (p<10(-6)), with loss of functional properties, composition, and cellularity observed at ≤0.3×; excessive glucose supplementation (up to 3×) showed no detrimental effects. In contrast, transferrin and selenous acid had no influence on matrix elaboration. These findings suggest that adequate distributions of insulin, ascorbate, and glucose, but not necessarily of transferrin and selenous acid, must be ensured within large engineered cartilage constructs to produce a viable substitute for joint tissue lost due to OA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Cartilage / cytology*
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes / cytology
  • Chondrocytes / drug effects
  • Chondrogenesis / drug effects
  • Female
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Selenious Acid / pharmacology*
  • Tissue Engineering
  • Transferrin / pharmacology*


  • Insulin
  • Transferrin
  • Selenious Acid
  • Glucose
  • Ascorbic Acid