Implantation of Autologous Cartilage Chips Improves Cartilage Repair Tissue Quality in Osteochondral Defects: A Study in Göttingen Minipigs

Am J Sports Med. 2016 Jun;44(6):1597-604. doi: 10.1177/0363546516630977. Epub 2016 Mar 7.


Background: Osteochondral injuries have poor endogenous healing potential, and no standard treatment has been established. The use of combined layered autologous bone and cartilage chips for treatment of osteochondral defects has shown promising short-term clinical results.

Purpose/hypothesis: This study aimed to investigate the role of cartilage chips by comparing combined layered autologous bone and cartilage chips with autologous bone implantation alone in a Göttingen minipig model. The hypothesis was that the presence of cartilage chips would improve the quality of the repair tissue.

Study design: Controlled laboratory study.

Methods: Twelve Göttingen minipigs received 2 osteochondral defects in each knee. The defects were randomized to autologous bone graft (ABG) combined with autologous cartilage chips (autologous dual-tissue transplantation [ADTT]) or ABG alone. Six animals were euthanized at 6 months and 6 animals were euthanized at 12 months. Follow-up evaluation consisted of histomorphometry, immunohistochemistry, semiquantitative scoring (International Cartilage Repair Society II), and computed tomography.

Results: There was significantly more hyaline cartilage in the ADTT group (25.8%) compared with the ABG group (12.8%) at 6 months after treatment. At 12 months, the fraction of hyaline cartilage in the ABG group had significantly decreased to 4.8%, whereas the fraction of hyaline cartilage in the ADTT group was unchanged (20.1%). At 6 and 12 months, there was significantly more fibrocartilage in the ADTT group (44% and 60.8%) compared with the ABG group (24.5% and 41%). The fraction of fibrous tissue was significantly lower in the ADTT group compared with the ABG group at both 6 and 12 months. The implanted cartilage chips stained >75% positive for collagen type 4 and laminin at both 6 and 12 months. Significant differences were found in a number of International Cartilage Repair Society II subcategories. The volume of the remaining bone defect significantly decreased from 6 to 12 months in both treatment groups; however, no difference in volume was found between the groups at either 6 or 12 months.

Conclusion: The presence of cartilage chips in an osteochondral defect facilitated the formation of fibrocartilage as opposed to fibrous tissue at both 6 and 12 months posttreatment. The implanted chips were present in the defect and viable after 12 months.

Clinical relevance: This study substantiates the chondrogenic role of cartilage chips in osteochondral defects.

Keywords: articular cartilage; autologous bone graft; cartilage chips; knee; osteochondral defect; particulated cartilage.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Transplantation*
  • Cartilage, Articular / surgery*
  • Male
  • Swine
  • Swine, Miniature
  • Transplantation, Autologous*