A Novel Approach for Meniscal Regeneration Using Kartogenin-Treated Autologous Tendon Graft

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Background:The meniscus is one of the most commonly injured parts of the body, and meniscal healing is difficult.Hypothesis:Kartogenin (KGN) induces tendon stem cells (TSCs) to differentiate into cartilage cells in vitro and form meniscus-like tissue in vivo. A damaged meniscus can be replaced with a KGN-treated autologous tendon graft.Study Design:Controlled laboratory study.Methods:In the in vitro experiments, TSCs were isolated from rabbit patellar tendons and cultured with various concentrations of KGN, from 0 to 1000 µM. The effect of KGN on the chondrogenesis of TSCs in vitro was investigated by histochemical staining and quantitative real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). The in vivo experiments were carried out on 6 New Zealand White rabbits by removing a meniscus from the rabbit knee and implanting an autologous tendon graft treated with KGN or saline. The meniscus formation in vivo was examined by histological analysis and immune staining.Results:The proliferation of TSCs was promoted by KGN in a concentration-dependent manner. Both histochemical staining and qRT-PCR showed that the chondrogenic differentiation of TSCs was increased with KGN concentration. After 3 months of implantation, the tendon graft treated with KGN formed a meniscus-like tissue with a white and glistening appearance, while the saline-treated tendon graft retained tendon-like tissue and appeared yellowish and unhealthy. Histochemical staining showed that after 3 months of implantation, the KGN-treated tendon graft had a structure similar to that of normal meniscus. Many cartilage-like cells and fibrocartilage-like tissues were found in the KGN-treated tendon graft. However, no cartilage-like cells were found in the saline-treated tendon graft after 3 months of implantation. Furthermore, the KGN-treated tendon graft was positively stained by both anti–collagen type I and type II antibodies, but the saline-treated tendon graft was not stained by collagen type II.Conclusion:The findings indicated that KGN can induce the differentiation of TSCs into cartilage-like cells in vitro and in vivo. The results suggest that KGN-treated tendon graft may be a good substitute for meniscal repair and regeneration.Clinical Relevance:This study revealed the direct effects of KGN on the chondrogenic differentiation of TSCs in vitro and in vivo. A KGN-treated autologous tendon graft induced formation of a meniscus-like tissue in vivo. This study provides a new cartilage regenerating technology for the treatment of damaged meniscus.

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