Chondrogenic Gene Expression Differences between Chondrocytes from Osteoarthritic and Non-OA Trauma Joints in a 3D Collagen Type I Hydrogel

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The purpose of the current study was to compare the donor age variation of chondrocytes from non-OA (osteoarthritic) trauma joints in patients of young to middle age (20.5 ± 3.7, 31.8 ± 1.9, 41.9 ± 4.1 years) embedded in matrix-associated autologous chondrocyte transplantation (MACT) grafts (CaReS). The chondrocyte-specific gene expression of CaReS grafts were then compared to chondrocytes from OA joints (in patients aged 63.8 ± 10 years) embedded in a collagen type I hydrogel.


OA chondrocytes and articular chondrocyte-laden grafts were cultured over 14 days in chondrogenic growth medium. We performed reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) to evaluate the mRNA expression levels of chondrocyte-specific and hypertrophic markers.


Gene expression analysis with RT-qPCR revealed no significant difference in chondrocyte-specific genes (COL2A1, ACAN, SOX9, SOX5, SOX6) among 3 different age group of patients with CaReS grafts. In a comparative analysis of OA chondrocytes to articular chondrocytes, chondrogenic markers (COL2A1, SOX6) exhibited higher expression in OA chondrocytes (P < 0.05). Hypertrophic or OA cartilage pathogenesis marker (MMP3, MMP13) expression was higher and COL1A1 had significantly lower expression (P < 0.05) in OA chondrocytes than articular chondrocytes when cultivated in collagen type I hydrogels.


In summary, we identify that donor age variation does not influence the chondrogenic gene expression of the CaReS system. We also identified that freshly isolated OA chondrocytes embedded in collagen type I hydrogels can exhibit chondrogenic gene expression as observed in articular chondrocytes on the CaReS grafts. Transforming OA chondrocytes to articular chondrocytes can be regarded as an alternative option in the MACT technique.

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