Study of Human Chondrocyte Redifferntiation Capacity in Three-Dimensional Hydrogel Culture

Document Type: Original Article


1 Department of Anatomical Science, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

2 Musculoskeletal Research Group, Institute of Anatomy, Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich, D-80336 Munich, Germany

3 Department of Physiology, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

4 Department of Stem Cells, Cell Science Research Center, Royan Institute, Isfahan Research Campus, ACERC, Isfahan, Iran

5 Isfahan Fertility and Infertility Center, Isfahan, Iran.

6 Department of Orthopedics, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

7 Orthopedics ward, Sadoghi Hospital, Isfahan, Iran


Articular cartilage tissue defects cannot be repaired by the proliferation of resident chondrocytes. Autologous chondrocyte transplantation (ACT) is a relatively new therapeutic approach to cover full thickness articular cartilage defects by in vitro grown chondrocytes from the joint of a patient. Therefore, we investigated the redifferentiation capability of human chondrocytes maintained in alginate culture.
Materials and Methods
The cartilage specimens obtained from 50 patients who underwent total knee and hip operations at the teaching hospital of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan Iran. Isolated primary chondrocytes were first grown in monolayer cultures for 1 to 6 passages (each passage lasting about 3 days). At each passage, monolayer cells seeded in alginate culture and investigated morphologically and immuno-cytologically for expression of cartilage-specific markers (collagen type II and cartilage-specific proteoglycans).
The chondrocytes from monolayer passages P1 to P4 introduced in alginate cultures regained a chondrocyte phenotype. Cells were interconnected by typical gap junctions and after few days, they produced a cartilage-specific extracellular matrix (collagen type II and cartilage-specific proteoglycans). In contrast, cells from monolayer passages P5 and P6 did not redifferentiate to chondrocytes in the alginate cultures.
Chondrocyte culture was established for the first time in Iran. The alginate culture conditions promote the redifferentiation of dedifferentiated chondrocytes that have still a chondrogenic potential. This procedure opens up a promising approach to produce sufficient numbers of differentiated chondrocytes for ACT. Indeed, in some patients the harvested cells were used immediately and successfully for transplantation.


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