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Chondrocyte apoptosis in the regenerated articular cartilage after allogenic chondrocyte transplantation in the rabbit knee

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We attempted to repair full-thickness defects in the articular cartilage of the trochlear groove of the femur in 30 rabbit knee joints using allogenic cultured chondrocytes embedded in a collagen gel. The repaired tissues were examined at 2, 4, 8, 12 and 24 weeks after operation using histological and histochemical methods. The articular defect filling index measurement was derived from safranin-O stained sections. Apoptotic cellular fractions were derived from analysis of apoptosis in situ using TUNEL staining, and was confirmed using caspase-3 staining along with quantification of the total cellularity. The mean articular defect filling index decreased with time. After 24 weeks it was 0.7 (sd 0.10), which was significantly lower than the measurements obtained earlier (p < 0.01). The highest mean percentage of apoptotic cells were observed at 12 weeks, although the total cellularity decreased with time. Because apoptotic cell death may play a role in delamination after chondrocyte transplantation, anti-apoptotic gene therapy may protect transplanted chondrocytes from apoptosis.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr C. W. Han; e-mail: hancw0523@hotmail.com

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