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Current decisions on cellular therapies for osteoarthritis are based primarily on clinical experience or on assumptions about preferred cell sourcing. They have not been informed by rigorous standardized measurements of the chondrogenic connective-tissue progenitors (CTP-Cs) or their intrinsic diversity of chondrogenic potential. The goal of this study was to quantitatively define the CTP-Cs resident in cartilage of different grades of osteoarthritis and to compare their concentration, prevalence, and biological potential.Twenty-three patients who had varus malalignment of the knee and were scheduled to undergo elective total knee arthroplasty for idiopathic osteoarthritis and who had grade 1-2 osteoarthritis on the lateral femoral condyle and grade 3-4 osteoarthritis on the medial femoral condyle were recruited for study of the cartilage removed during surgery. CTP-Cs were assayed by a standardized colony-forming-unit assay using automated image-analysis software based on ASTM standard test method F2944-12.Cell concentration was significantly greater (p < 0.001) in grade 3-4 cartilage than in grade 1-2 cartilage. The prevalence of CTP-Cs varied widely, but it trended lower in grade 3-4 cartilage than in grade 1-2 samples (p = 0.078). The biological performance of CTP-Cs from grade 1-2 and grade 3-4 cartilage was comparable. Increased cell concentration was a significant predictor of decreased CTP-C prevalence (p = 0.002).Although grade 3-4 cartilage showed fewer CTP-Cs than grade 1-2 cartilage, the range of biological performance was comparable, which suggests that either may be used as a source for potent CTP-Cs. However, the biological reason for the heterogeneity of CTP-Cs in cartilage and the biological implications of that heterogeneity are not well understood and require further study.In order to improve the efficacy of cartilage cell therapy procedures, it is key to characterize the quality and quantity of the cells and progenitors being administered. Additionally, understanding the heterogeneity in order to select appropriate subsets of populations will improve the rigor of decisions concerning cell sourcing and targeting for pharmacological and cellular therapies.