Adult human articular chondrocytes in a microcarrier-based culture system: expansion and redifferentiation

Karsten Schrobback, Travis Jacob Klein, Michael Schuetz, Zee Upton, David Ian Leavesley, Jos Malda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Expanding human chondrocytes in vitro while maintaining their ability to form cartilage remains a key challenge in cartilage tissue engineering. One promising approach to address this is to use microcarriers as substrates for chondrocyte expansion. While microcarriers have shown beneficial effects for expansion of animal and ectopic human chondrocytes, their utility has not been determined for freshly isolated adult human articular chondrocytes. Thus, we investigated the proliferation and subsequent chondrogenic differentiation of these clinically relevant cells on porous gelatin microcarriers and compared them to those expanded using traditional monolayers. Chondrocytes attached to microcarriers within 2 days and remained viable over 4 weeks of culture in spinner flasks. Cells on microcarriers exhibited a spread morphology and initially proliferated faster than cells in monolayer culture, however, with prolonged expansion they were less proliferative. Cells expanded for 1 month and enzymatically released from microcarriers formed cartilaginous tissue in micromass pellet cultures, which was similar to tissue formed by monolayer-expanded cells. Cells left attached to microcarriers did not exhibit chondrogenic capacity. Culture conditions, such as microcarrier material, oxygen tension, and mechanical stimulation require further investigation to facilitate the efficient expansion of clinically relevant human articular chondrocytes that maintain chondrogenic potential for cartilage regeneration applications. © 2010 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 29:539-546, 2011.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-46
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Actin Cytoskeleton/metabolism
  • Cartilage, Articular/cytology
  • Cell Culture Techniques/methods
  • Cell Differentiation/physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chondrocytes/cytology
  • Collagen/metabolism
  • DNA/analysis
  • Extracellular Matrix/metabolism
  • Female
  • Gelatin
  • Glycosaminoglycans/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Materials Testing
  • Phenotype
  • Tissue Engineering/methods


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