Advancing osteochondral tissue engineering: bone morphogenetic protein, transforming growth factor, and fibroblast growth factor signaling drive ordered differentiation of periosteal cells resulting in stable cartilage and bone formation in vivo

Stem Cell Res Ther. 2018 Feb 21;9(1):42. doi: 10.1186/s13287-018-0787-3.


Background: Chondrogenic mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have not yet been used to address the clinical demands of large osteochondral joint surface defects. In this study, self-assembling tissue intermediates (TIs) derived from human periosteum-derived stem/progenitor cells (hPDCs) were generated and validated for stable cartilage formation in vivo using two different animal models.

Methods: hPDCs were aggregated and cultured in the presence of a novel growth factor (GF) cocktail comprising of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)2, growth differentiation factor (GDF)5, BMP6, and fibroblast growth factor (FGF)2. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and immunohistochemistry were used to study in vitro differentiation. Aggregates were then implanted ectopically in nude mice and orthotopically in critical-size osteochondral defects in nude rats and evaluated by microcomputed tomography (µCT) and immunohistochemistry.

Results: Gene expression analysis after 28 days of in vitro culture revealed the expression of early and late chondrogenic markers and a significant upregulation of NOGGIN as compared to human articular chondrocytes (hACs). Histological examination revealed a bilayered structure comprising of chondrocytes at different stages of maturity. Ectopically, TIs generated both bone and mineralized cartilage at 8 weeks after implantation. Osteochondral defects treated with TIs displayed glycosaminoglycan (GAG) production, type-II collagen, and lubricin expression. Immunostaining for human nuclei protein suggested that hPDCs contributed to both subchondral bone and articular cartilage repair.

Conclusion: Our data indicate that in vitro derived osteochondral-like tissues can be generated from hPDCs, which are capable of producing bone and cartilage ectopically and behave orthotopically as osteochondral units.

Keywords: Cartilage tissue engineering; Growth factors; Osteochondral defect; Periosteal cells; Subchondral bone regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation / biosynthesis
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2 / pharmacology*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6 / pharmacology*
  • Cartilage / chemistry
  • Cartilage / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects*
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 / pharmacology*
  • Heterografts
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Periosteum / cytology
  • Periosteum / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Stem Cell Transplantation
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Tissue Engineering*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / pharmacology*


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • BMP2 protein, human
  • BMP6 protein, human
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 2
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 6
  • TGFB1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor 2