Chondrocyte transplantation has been successfully tested and proposed as a clinical procedure aiming to repair articular cartilage defects. However, the isolation of chondrocytes and the optimization of the enzymatic digestion process, as well as their successful in vitro expansion, remain the main challenges in cartilage tissue engineering. In order to address these issues, we investigated the performance of recombinant collagenases in tissue dissociation assays with the aim of isolating chondrocytes from bovine nasal cartilage in order to establish the optimal enzyme blend to ensure the best outcomes of the overall procedure. We show, for the first time, that collagenase H activity alone is required for effective cartilage digestion, resulting in an improvement in the yield of viable cells. The extracted chondrocytes proved able to grow and activate differentiation/dedifferentiation programs, as assessed by morphological and gene expression analyses.
Keywords: cell transplantation; collagenases; gene expression profiles; nasal chondrocytes; tissue dissociation.