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1.  Bioactive Factors in Platelet-Rich Plasma Obtained by Apheresis 
The use of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) in regenerative approaches in cartilage repair is becoming more common. Information about PRP composition and its content of putative bioactive chondrogenic growth factors (GF) that may support cartilage regeneration is scarce.
GF composition of a pool of 6 PRP preparations was determined using Protein Antibody Membrane Arrays covering 507 GF, signaling molecules, and receptors. To verify the chondrogenic GF variability in PRP, Growth Factor Antibody Membrane Arrays covering 26 GF were applied to 6 individual PRP preparations. Selected GF involved in chondrogenic differentiation were quantified by Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA).
417 out of 507 possible detectable proteins were present in the PRP pool, including 76 GF. Quantification of selected chondrogenic GF by ELISA showed an average of 0.31 ng/ml bone morphogenetic protein-2, 0.50 ng/ml connective tissue growth factor, 0.76 ng/ml fibroblast growth factor-2, and 0.59 ng/ml transforming growth factor-β3.
PRP as a therapeutic option in regenerative cartilage repair strategies is a powerful tool for the local application of chondrogenic GF to the site of injury. Chondrogenic GF are present in PRP and may support cartilage repair by inducing cell differentiation and cartilage matrix formation.
PMCID: PMC3901588  PMID: 24474894
Platelet-rich plasma; Cartilage regeneration; Chondrogenesis; Growth factors; Apheresis
2.  An ovine in vitro model for chondrocyte-based scaffold-assisted cartilage grafts 
Scaffold-assisted autologous chondrocyte implantation is an effective clinical procedure for cartilage repair. From the regulatory point of view, the ovine model is one of the suggested large animal models for pre-clinical studies. The aim of our study was to evaluate the in vitro re-differentiation capacity of expanded ovine chondrocytes in biomechanically characterized polyglycolic acid (PGA)/fibrin biomaterials for scaffold-assisted cartilage repair.
Ovine chondrocytes harvested from adult articular cartilage were expanded in monolayer and re-assembled three-dimensionally in PGA-fibrin scaffolds. De- and re-differentiation of ovine chondrocytes in PGA-fibrin scaffolds was assessed by histological and immuno-histochemical staining as well as by real-time gene expression analysis of typical cartilage marker molecules and the matrix-remodelling enzymes matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) -1, -2 and −13 as well as their inhibitors. PGA scaffolds characteristics including degradation and stiffness were analysed by electron microscopy and biomechanical testing.
Histological, immuno-histochemical and gene expression analysis showed that dedifferentiated chondrocytes re-differentiate in PGA-fibrin scaffolds and form a cartilaginous matrix. Re-differentiation was accompanied by the induction of type II collagen and aggrecan, while MMP expression decreased in prolonged tissue culture. Electron microscopy and biomechanical tests revealed that the non-woven PGA scaffold shows a textile structure with high tensile strength of 3.6 N/mm2 and a stiffness of up to 0.44 N/mm2, when combined with gel-like fibrin.
These data suggest that PGA-fibrin is suited as a mechanically stable support structure for scaffold-assisted chondrocyte grafts, initiating chondrogenic re-differentiation of expanded chondrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3509043  PMID: 23137017
Cartilage grafts; Chondrocytes; In vitro model; Scaffolds; Fibrin; Polyglycolic acid; Tissue engineering; Regenerative medicine; Differentiation; Biomechanics
3.  Chondrogenic differentiation of human subchondral progenitor cells is affected by synovial fluid from donors with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis 
Microfracture is a first-line treatment option for cartilage repair. In microfracture, subchondral mesenchymal cortico-spongious progenitor cells (CSP) enter the defect and form cartilage repair tissue. The aim of our study was to investigate the effects of joint disease conditions on the in vitro chondrogenesis of human CSP.
CSP were harvested from the subchondral bone marrow. CSP characterization was performed by analysis of cell surface antigen pattern and by assessing the chondrogenic, osteogenic and adipogenic differentiation potential, histologically. To assess the effect of synovial fluid (SF) on chondrogenesis of CSP, micro-masses were stimulated with SF from healthy (ND), osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis donors (RA) without transforming growth factor beta 3.
CSP showed the typical cell surface antigen pattern known from mesenchymal stem cells and were capable of osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic differentiation. In micro-masses stimulated with SF, histological staining as well as gene expression analysis of typical chondrogenic marker genes showed that SF from ND and OA induced the chondrogenic marker genes aggrecan, types II and IX collagen, cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) and link protein, compared to controls not treated with SF. In contrast, the supplementation with SF from RA donors decreased the expression of aggrecan, type II collagen, COMP and link protein, compared to CSP treated with SF from ND or OA.
These results suggest that in RA, SF may impair cartilage repair by subchondral mesenchymal progenitor cells in microfracture, while in OA, SF may has no negative, but a delaying effect on the cartilage matrix formation.
PMCID: PMC3349532  PMID: 22414301
Cartilage regeneration; Chondrogenesis; Osteoarthritis; Synovial fluid; Microfracture; Rheumatoid arthritis; Stem cell
4.  Relative percentage and zonal distribution of mesenchymal progenitor cells in human osteoarthritic and normal cartilage 
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are highly attractive for use in cartilage regeneration. To date, MSC are usually recruited from subchondral bone marrow using microfracture. Recent data suggest that isolated cells from adult human articular cartilage, which express the combination of the cell-surface markers CD105 and CD166, are multi-potent mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPC) with characteristics similar to MSC. MPC within the cartilage matrix, the target of tissue regeneration, may provide the basis for in situ regeneration of focal cartilage defects. However, there is only limited information concerning the presence/abundance of CD105+/CD166+ MPC in human articular cartilage. The present study therefore assessed the relative percentage and particularly the zonal distribution of cartilage MPC using the markers CD105/CD166.
Specimens of human osteoarthritic (OA; n = 11) and normal (n = 3) cartilage were used for either cell isolation or immunohistochemistry. Due to low numbers, isolated cells were expanded for 2 weeks and then analyzed by flow cytometry (FACS) or immunofluorescence in chamber slides for the expression of CD105 and CD166. Following immunomagnetic separation of CD166+/- OA cells, multi-lineage differentiation assays were performed. Also, the zonal distribution of CD166+ cells within the matrix of OA and normal cartilage was analyzed by immunohistochemistry.
FACS analysis showed that 16.7 ± 2.1% (mean ± SEM) of OA and 15.3 ± 2.3 of normal chondrocytes (n.s.) were CD105+/CD166+ and thus carried the established MPC marker combination. Similarly, 13.2% ± 0.9% and 11.7 ± 2.1 of CD105+/CD166+cells, respectively, were identified by immunofluorescence in adherent OA and normal chondrocytes. The CD166+ enriched OA cells showed a stronger induction of the chondrogenic phenotype in differentiation assays than the CD166+ depleted cell population, underlining the chondrogenic potential of the MPC. Strikingly, CD166+ cells in OA and normal articular cartilage sections (22.1 ± 1.7% and 23.6% ± 1.4%, respectively; n.s.) were almost exclusively located in the superficial and middle zone.
The present results underline the suitability of CD166 as a biomarker to identify and, in particular, localize and/or enrich resident MPC with a high chondrogenic potential in human articular cartilage. The percentage of MPC in both OA and normal cartilage is substantially higher than previously reported, suggesting a yet unexplored reserve capacity for regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3132059  PMID: 21496249
5.  A calibrated diversity assay for nucleic acid libraries using DiStRO—a Diversity Standard of Random Oligonucleotides 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(4):e23.
We have determined diversities exceeding 1012 different sequences in an annealing and melting assay using synthetic randomized oligonucleotides as a standard. For such high diversities, the annealing kinetics differ from those observed for low diversities, favouring the remelting curve after annealing as the best indicator of complexity. Direct comparisons of nucleic acid pools obtained from an aptamer selection demonstrate that even highly complex populations can be evaluated by using DiStRO, without the need of complicated calculations.
PMCID: PMC2831324  PMID: 19965765
6.  Biomechanical testing of a polymer-based biomaterial for the restoration of spinal stability after nucleotomy 
Surgery for disc herniations can be complicated by two major problems: painful degeneration of the spinal segment and re-herniation. Therefore, we examined an absorbable poly-glycolic acid (PGA) biomaterial, which was lyophilized with hyaluronic acid (HA), for its utility to (a) re-establish spinal stability and to (b) seal annulus fibrosus defects. The biomechanical properties range of motion (ROM), neutral zone (NZ) and a potential annulus sealing capacity were investigated.
Seven bovine, lumbar spinal units were tested in vitro for ROM and NZ in three consecutive stages: (a) intact, (b) following nucleotomy and (c) after insertion of a PGA/HA nucleus-implant. For biomechanical testing, spinal units were mounted on a loading-simulator for spines. In three cycles, axial loading was applied in an excentric mode with 0.5 Nm steps until an applied moment of ± 7.5 Nm was achieved in flexion/extension. ROM and NZ were assessed. These tests were performed without and with annulus sealing by sewing a PGA/HA annulus-implant into the annulus defect.
Spinal stability was significantly impaired after nucleotomy (p < 0.001). Intradiscal implantation of a PGA-HA nucleus-implant, however, restored spinal stability (p < 0.003). There was no statistical difference between the stability provided by the nucleus-implant and the intact stage regarding flexion/extension movements (p = 0.209). During the testing sequences, herniation of biomaterial through the annulus defect into the spinal canal regularly occurred, resulting in compression of neural elements. Sewing a PGA/HA annulus-implant into the annulus defect, however, effectively prevented herniation.
PGA/HA biomaterial seems to be well suited for cell-free and cell-based regenerative treatment strategies in spinal surgery. Its abilities to restore spinal stability and potentially close annulus defects open up new vistas for regenerative approaches to treat intervertebral disc degeneration and for preventing implant herniation.
PMCID: PMC2717058  PMID: 19604373
7.  Treatment of focal degenerative cartilage defects with polymer-based autologous chondrocyte grafts: four-year clinical results 
Second-generation autologous chondrocyte implantation with scaffolds stabilizing the grafts is a clinically effective procedure for cartilage repair. In this ongoing prospective observational case report study, we evaluated the effectiveness of BioSeed®-C, a cell-based cartilage graft based on autologous chondrocytes embedded in fibrin and a stable resorbable polymer scaffold, for the treatment of clinical symptomatic focal degenerative defects of the knee.
Clinical outcome after 4-year clinical follow-up was assessed in 19 patients with preoperatively radiologically confirmed osteoarthritis and a Kellgren-Lawrence score of 2 or more. Clinical scoring was performed before implantation of the graft and 6, 12, and 48 months after implantation using the Lysholm score, the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS), the International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) score, and the International Cartilage Repair Society (ICRS) score. Cartilage regeneration and articular resurfacing were assessed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) 4 years after implantation of the autologous cartilage graft.
Significant improvement (P < 0.05) of the Lysholm and ICRS scores was observed as early as 6 months after implantation of BioSeed®-C and remained stable during follow-up. The IKDC score showed significant improvement compared with the preoperative situation at 12 and 48 months (P < 0.05). The KOOS showed significant improvement in the subclasses pain, activities of daily living, and knee-related quality of life 6 months as well as 1 and 4 years after implantation of BioSeed®-C in osteoarthritic defects (P < 0.05). MRI analysis showed moderate to complete defect filling with a normal to incidentally hyperintense signal in 16 out of 19 patients treated with BioSeed®-C. Two patients without improvement in the clinical and MRI scores received a total knee endoprosthesis after 4 years.
The results show that the good clinical outcome achieved 1 year after implantation of BioSeed®-C remains stable over the course of a period of 4 years and suggest that implanting BioSeed®-C is a promising treatment option for the repair of focal degenerative defects of the knee.
PMCID: PMC2688178  PMID: 19265548
8.  Antirheumatic drug response signatures in human chondrocytes: potential molecular targets to stimulate cartilage regeneration 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) leads to progressive destruction of articular cartilage. This study aimed to disclose major mechanisms of antirheumatic drug action on human chondrocytes and to reveal marker and pharmacological target genes that are involved in cartilage dysfunction and regeneration.
An interactive in vitro cultivation system composed of human chondrocyte alginate cultures and conditioned supernatant of SV40 T-antigen immortalised human synovial fibroblasts was used. Chondrocyte alginate cultures were stimulated with supernatant of RA synovial fibroblasts, of healthy donor synovial fibroblasts, and of RA synovial fibroblasts that have been antirheumatically treated with disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) (azathioprine, gold sodium thiomalate, chloroquine phosphate, and methotrexate), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (piroxicam and diclofenac), or steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (SAIDs) (methylprednisolone and prednisolone). Chondrocyte gene expression profile was analysed using microarrays. Real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay were performed for validation of microarray data.
Genome-wide expression analysis revealed 110 RA-related genes in human chondrocytes: expression of catabolic mediators (inflammation, cytokines/chemokines, and matrix degradation) was induced, and expression of anabolic mediators (matrix synthesis and proliferation/differentiation) was repressed. Potential marker genes to define and influence cartilage/chondrocyte integrity and regeneration were determined and include already established genes (COX-2, CXCR-4, IL-1RN, IL-6/8, MMP-10/12, and TLR-2) and novel genes (ADORA2A, BCL2-A1, CTGF, CXCR-7, CYR-61, HSD11B-1, IL-23A, MARCKS, MXRA-5, NDUFA4L2, NR4A3, SMS, STS, TNFAIP-2, and TXNIP). Antirheumatic treatment with SAIDs showed complete and strong reversion of RA-related gene expression in human chondrocytes, whereas treatment with NSAIDs and the DMARD chloroquine phosphate had only moderate to minor effects. Treatment with the DMARDs azathioprine, gold sodium thiomalate, and methotrexate efficiently reverted chondrocyte RA-related gene expression toward the 'healthy' level. Pathways of cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction, transforming growth factor-beta/Toll-like receptor/Jak-STAT (signal transducer and activator of transcription) signalling and extracellular matrix receptor interaction were targeted by antirheumatics.
Our findings indicate that RA-relevant stimuli result in the molecular activation of catabolic and inflammatory processes in human chondrocytes that are reverted by antirheumatic treatment. Candidate genes that evolved in this study for new therapeutic approaches include suppression of specific immune responses (COX-2, IL-23A, and IL-6) and activation of cartilage regeneration (CTGF and CYR-61).
PMCID: PMC2688247  PMID: 19192274
9.  Key regulatory molecules of cartilage destruction in rheumatoid arthritis: an in vitro study 
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic, inflammatory and systemic autoimmune disease that leads to progressive cartilage destruction. Advances in the treatment of RA-related destruction of cartilage require profound insights into the molecular mechanisms involved in cartilage degradation. Until now, comprehensive data about the molecular RA-related dysfunction of chondrocytes have been limited. Hence, the objective of this study was to establish a standardized in vitro model to profile the key regulatory molecules of RA-related destruction of cartilage that are expressed by human chondrocytes.
Human chondrocytes were cultured three-dimensionally for 14 days in alginate beads and subsequently stimulated for 48 hours with supernatants from SV40 T-antigen immortalized human synovial fibroblasts (SF) derived from a normal donor (NDSF) and from a patient with RA (RASF), respectively. To identify RA-related factors released from SF, supernatants of RASF and NDSF were analyzed with antibody-based protein membrane arrays. Stimulated cartilage-like cultures were used for subsequent gene expression profiling with oligonucleotide microarrays. Affymetrix GeneChip Operating Software and Robust Multi-array Analysis (RMA) were used to identify differentially expressed genes. Expression of selected genes was verified by real-time RT-PCR.
Antibody-based protein membrane arrays of synovial fibroblast supernatants identified RA-related soluble mediators (IL-6, CCL2, CXCL1–3, CXCL8) released from RASF. Genome-wide microarray analysis of RASF-stimulated chondrocytes disclosed a distinct expression profile related to cartilage destruction involving marker genes of inflammation (adenosine A2A receptor, cyclooxygenase-2), the NF-κB signaling pathway (toll-like receptor 2, spermine synthase, receptor-interacting serine-threonine kinase 2), cytokines/chemokines and receptors (CXCL1–3, CXCL8, CCL20, CXCR4, IL-1β, IL-6), cartilage degradation (matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-10, MMP-12) and suppressed matrix synthesis (cartilage oligomeric matrix protein, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 2).
Differential transcriptome profiling of stimulated human chondrocytes revealed a disturbed catabolic–anabolic homeostasis of chondrocyte function and disclosed relevant pharmacological target genes of cartilage destruction. This study provides comprehensive insight into molecular regulatory processes induced in human chondrocytes during RA-related destruction of cartilage. The established model may serve as a human in vitro disease model of RA-related destruction of cartilage and may help to elucidate the molecular effects of anti-rheumatic drugs on human chondrocyte gene expression.
PMCID: PMC2374452  PMID: 18205922
10.  Treatment of posttraumatic and focal osteoarthritic cartilage defects of the knee with autologous polymer-based three-dimensional chondrocyte grafts: 2-year clinical results 
Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) is an effective clinical procedure for the regeneration of articular cartilage defects. BioSeed®-C is a second-generation ACI tissue engineering cartilage graft that is based on autologous chondrocytes embedded in a three-dimensional bioresorbable two-component gel-polymer scaffold. In the present prospective study, we evaluated the short-term to mid-term efficacy of BioSeed-C for the arthrotomic and arthroscopic treatment of posttraumatic and degenerative cartilage defects in a group of patients suffering from chronic posttraumatic and/or degenerative cartilage lesions of the knee. Clinical outcome was assessed in 40 patients with a 2-year clinical follow-up before implantation and at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after implantation by using the modified Cincinnati Knee Rating System, the Lysholm score, the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, and the current health assessment form (SF-36) of the International Knee Documentation Committee, as well as histological analysis of second-look biopsies. Significant improvement (p < 0.05) in the evaluated scores was observed at 1 and/or 2 years after implantation of BioSeed-C, and histological staining of the biopsies showed good integration of the graft and formation of a cartilaginous repair tissue. The Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score showed significant improvement in the subclasses pain, other symptoms, and knee-related quality of life 2 years after implantation of BioSeed-C in focal osteoarthritic defects. The results suggest that implanting BioSeed-C is an effective treatment option for the regeneration of posttraumatic and/or osteoarthritic defects of the knee.
PMCID: PMC1906819  PMID: 17451597
11.  Decrease in expression of bone morphogenetic proteins 4 and 5 in synovial tissue of patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis 
Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) have been identified as important morphogens with pleiotropic functions in regulating the development, homeostasis and repair of various tissues. The aim of this study was to characterize the expression of BMPs in synovial tissues under normal and arthritic conditions. Synovial tissue from normal donors (ND) and from patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were analyzed for BMP expression by using microarray hybridization. Differential expression of BMP-4 and BMP-5 was validated by semiquantitative RT-PCR, in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry. Activity of arthritis was determined by routine parameters for systemic inflammation, by histological scoring of synovitis and by semiquantitative RT-PCR of IL-1β, TNF-α, stromelysin and collagenase I in synovial tissue. Expression of BMP-4 and BMP-5 mRNA was found to be significantly decreased in synovial tissue of patients with RA in comparison with ND by microarray analysis (p < 0.0083 and p < 0.0091). Validation by PCR confirmed these data in RA (p < 0.002) and also revealed a significant decrease in BMP-4 and BMP-5 expression in OA compared with ND (p < 0.015). Furthermore, histomorphological distribution of both morphogens as determined by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry showed a dominance in the lining layer of normal tissues, whereas chronically inflamed tissue from patients with RA revealed BMP expression mainly scattered across deeper layers. In OA, these changes were less pronounced with variable distribution of BMPs in the lining and sublining layer. BMP-4 and BMP-5 are expressed in normal synovial tissue and were found decreased in OA and RA. This may suggest a role of distinct BMPs in joint homeostasis that is disturbed in inflammatory and degenerative joint diseases. In comparison with previous reports, these data underline the complex impact of these factors on homeostasis and remodeling in joint physiology and pathology.
PMCID: PMC1526630  PMID: 16542506

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