Objective: This study evaluated the effects of mesenchymal stem cell-extracellular vesicles (MSC-EVs) on chondrocyte proliferation in vitro and on cartilage repair in vivo following bone marrow stimulation (BMS) of focal chondral defects of the knee.
Methods: Six adult Göttingen minipigs received 2 chondral defects in each knee. The pigs were randomized to treatment with either BMS combined with MSC-EVs or BMS combined with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS). Intraarticular injections MSC-EVs or PBS were performed immediately after closure of the surgical incisions, and at 2 and 4 weeks postoperatively. Repair was evaluated after 6 months with gross examination, histology, histomorphometry, immunohistochemistry, and micro-computed tomography (µCT) analysis of the trabecular bone beneath the defect.
Results: Defects treated with MSC-EVs had more bone in the cartilage defect area than the PBS-treated defects (7.9% vs. 1.5%, P = 0.02). Less than 1% of the repair tissue in both groups was hyaline cartilage. International Cartilage and Joint Preservation Society II histological scoring showed that defects treated with MSC-EVs scored lower on "matrix staining" (20.8 vs. 50.0, P = 0.03), "cell morphology" (35.4 vs. 53.8, P = 0.04), and "overall assessment" (30.8 vs. 52.9, P = 0.03). Consistently, defects treated with MSC-EVs had lower collagen II and higher collagen I areal deposition. Defects treated with MSC-EVs had subchondral bone with significantly higher tissue mineral densities than PBS-treated defects (860 mg HA/cm3 vs. 838 mg HA/cm3, P = 0.02).
Conclusion: Intraarticular injections of MSC-EVs in conjunction with BMS led to osseous ingrowth that impaired optimal cartilage repair, while enhancing subchondral bone healing.
Keywords: articular cartilage; bone marrow stimulation; cartilage repair; knee; mesenchymal stem cells.