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

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The meniscus is one of the most commonly injured parts of the body, and meniscal healing is difficult.


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.


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.


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.


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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