header advert
Orthopaedic Proceedings Logo

Receive monthly Table of Contents alerts from Orthopaedic Proceedings

Comprehensive article alerts can be set up and managed through your account settings

View my account settings

Visit Orthopaedic Proceedings at:



Full Access



British Orthopaedic Research Society (BORS)


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have potential for therapeutic repair of cartilage and bone but still require optimization in terms of their capacity to deposit an appropriate extracellular matrix (ECM). Adult human cartilage has a limited capacity for repair and is unusual in that it is one of the few tissues where injury is not followed by an influx of monocytes. We are studying the effects of co-culturing primary monocytes with MSCs differentiating along chondrogenic lineage but in addition we needed to investigate the effects of the monocytes on the mature chondrocytes that will result from the MSCs and will also be present in the host tissue.

Human articular cartilage chondrocytes were isolated from human donors undergoing knee replacement surgery for osteoarthritis (OA) with full ethical consent. Cultures were expanded and cells used below passage five for co-culture experiments. Monocytes were prepared from fresh heparinized human blood samples by Ficoll gradient. Co-cultures consisted of either chondrocyte micromasses overlaid with monocytes, or chondrocytes and monocytes seeded together within a collagen/glycosaminoglycan scaffold (Chondromimetic, Tigenix UK). Media, cell pellets and scaffolds were analysed for extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins and proteases by dot blot, western blot, zymography and immunohistochemistry.

Human chondrocytes maintained stable micromasses and laid down an ECM for at least 40 days. Human monocytes eventually formed a proliferating cell population with a rounded morphology on top of the chondrocyte micromasses. These cells established an adherent population with a fibroblastic morphology when replated on plastic. Analysis of chondrocyte ECM proteins indicated that monocytes affected deposition of types I and II collagen, decorin and fibronectin and the overall amounts of gelatinases released. RTPCR demonstrated a decrease in type I collagen expression and a concomitant increase in MMP13 expression.

The precise interaction between monocytes and and chondrocytes has yet to be established but is thought to involve a mixture of contact and paracrine factors. In this study co-culture of monocytes with chondrocytes resulted in phenotypic changes to the chondrocytes which may warrant the inclusion of monocytes in cartilage/bone repair and also provide information as to the responses of OA chondrocytes to external stimuli.