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Redifferentiation of In Vitro Expanded Adult Articular Chondrocytes by Combining the Hanging-Drop Cultivation Method With Hypoxic Environment

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The main purpose of this work has been to establish a new culturing technique to improve the chondrogenic commitment of isolated adult human chondrocytes, with the aim of being used during cell-based therapies or tissue engineering strategies. By using a rather novel technique to generate scaffold-free three-dimensional (3D) structures from in vitro expanded chondrocytes, we have explored the effects of different culture environments on cartilage formation. Three-dimensional chondrospheroids were developed by applying the hanging-drop technique. Cartilage tissue formation was attempted after combining critical factors such as serum-containing or serum-free media and atmospheric (20%) or low (2.5%) oxygen tensions. The quality of the formed microtissues was analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, electron microscopy, and real-time PCR, and directly compared with native adult cartilage. Our results revealed highly organized, 3D tissue-like structures developed by the hanging-drop method. All culture conditions allowed formation of 3D spheroids; however, cartilage generated under low oxygen tension had a bigger size, enhanced matrix deposition, and higher quality of cartilage formation. Real-time PCR demonstrated enhanced expression of cartilage-specific genes such us collagen type II and aggrecan in 3D cultures when compared to monolayers. Cartilage-specific matrix proteins and genes expressed in hanging-drop-developed spheroids were comparable to the expression obtained by applying the pellet culture system. In summary, our results indicate that a combination of 3D cultures of chondrocytes in hanging drops and a low oxygen environment represent an easy and convenient way to generate cartilage-like microstructures. We also show that a new specially tailored serum-free medium is suitable for in vitro cartilage tissue formation. This new methodology opens up the possibility of using autogenously produced solid 3D structures with redifferentiated chondrocytes as an attractive alternative to the currently used autologous chondrocyte transplantation for cartilage repair.
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Keywords: Cartilage; Chondrocytes; Hypoxia; Serum-free medium; Spheroids; Transplantation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

    Cell Transplantation is now being published by SAGE. Please visit their website for the most recent issues.

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