Clinical and Magnetic Resonance Imaging Outcomes After Human Cord Blood-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cell Implantation for Chondral Defects of the Knee

Orthop J Sports Med. 2023 Apr 24;11(4):23259671231158391. doi: 10.1177/23259671231158391. eCollection 2023 Apr.


Background: There is a paucity of literature reporting clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) outcomes after allogeneic umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cell (UCB-MSC) implantation for chondral defects of the knee.

Purpose: To report clinical and MRI outcomes after UCB-MSC implantation for chondral lesions of the knee.

Study design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods: Inclusion criteria were patients aged between 40 and 70 years with focal chondral lesions of grade 3 or 4 on the medial femoral condyle, defect sizes >4 cm2, and intact ligaments. Exclusion criteria were patients who required realignment osteotomy or who had a meniscal deficiency, ligamentous instability, or a concomitant full-thickness chondral defect in the lateral or patellofemoral compartment. A mixture of human UCB-MSCs and sodium hyaluronate was implanted into the chondral defect through mini-arthrotomy. MRI at 1-year follow-up was performed to evaluate repaired cartilage hypertrophy. Repaired cartilage thickness was measured, and hypertrophy was classified as grade 1 (<125%), grade 2 (<150%), or grade 3 (<200%). Patient-reported outcomes (PROs; International Knee Documentation Committee, visual analog scale for pain, and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index) were evaluated preoperatively and at 1, 2, and 3 years postoperatively. Repaired cartilage hypertrophy was evaluated for a correlation with PRO scores.

Results: Enrolled were 85 patients with a mean age of 56.8 ± 6.1 years and a mean chondral defect size of 6.7 ± 2.0 cm2. At follow-up, a significant improvement in all PRO scores was seen compared with preoperatively (P < .001 for all). MRI at 1-year follow-up demonstrated that 28 patients had grade 1 repaired cartilage hypertrophy, 41 patients had grade 2, and 16 patients had grade 3. MRI performed in 11 patients at 2 years after surgery indicated no difference in repaired cartilage hypertrophy between the 1- and 2-year time points. The grade of repaired cartilage hypertrophy did not correlate with PRO scores.

Conclusion: Clinical outcomes improved significantly at short-term follow-up after UCB-MSC implantation. Although all patients showed repaired cartilage hypertrophy, it did not correlate with clinical outcomes.

Keywords: MRI; chondral defect; graft hypertrophy; mesenchymal stem cell; umbilical cord blood.