Comparison between articular chondrocytes and mesenchymal stromal cells for the production of articular cartilage implants

Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2023 Feb 21:11:1116513. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2023.1116513. eCollection 2023.


Focal lesions of articular cartilage give rise to pain and reduced joint function and may, if left untreated, lead to osteoarthritis. Implantation of in vitro generated, scaffold-free autologous cartilage discs may represent the best treatment option. Here we compare articular chondrocytes (ACs) and bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for their ability to make scaffold-free cartilage discs. Articular chondrocytes produced more extracellular matrix per seeded cell than mesenchymal stromal cells. Quantitative proteomics analysis showed that articular chondrocyte discs contained more articular cartilage proteins, while mesenchymal stromal cell discs had more proteins associated with cartilage hypertrophy and bone formation. Sequencing analysis revealed more microRNAs associated with normal cartilage in articular chondrocyte discs, and large-scale target predictions, performed for the first time for in vitro chondrogenesis, suggested that differential expression of microRNAs in the two disc types were important mechanisms behind differential synthesis of proteins. We conclude that articular chondrocytes should be preferred over mesenchymal stromal cells for tissue engineering of articular cartilage.

Keywords: articular cartilage; chondrocytes; mesenchymal stromal (or stem) cells; microRNA; tissue engineering.

Grants and funding

This research was supported by a research grant from the Olav Thon Foundation. Mass spectrometry-based proteomic analyses were performed by the Proteomics Core Facility, Department of Immunology, University of Oslo/Oslo University Hospital, which is supported by the Core Facilities program of the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority. This core facility is also a member of the National Network of Advanced Proteomics Infrastructure (NAPI), which is funded by the Research Council of Norway INFRASTRUKTUR-program (project number: 295910).