Researchers Succeed in Cultivating Cartilage From Stem Cells


Source: University of Basel

Summary: Researchers have produced stable joint cartilage from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This was made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation.


Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem cells usually develop into cartilage tissue, which later naturally remodels into bone tissue. Even if the stem cells are induced to differentiate into cartilage cells, they spontaneously mature into a so-called “hypertrophic” state, ultimately leading to the formation of bone tissue; this is similar to the cartilaginous tissue temporarily formed after a fracture. Researchers from the University of Basel have produced stable joint cartilage from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This was made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation. The study findings were published in the journal PNAS.

Smooth elastic tissue

Development of cartilage tissue from mesenchymal stem/stromal cells after eight weeks in vivo: Inhibition of the signalling pathway of the protein BMP leads to the maintenance of stable cartilage tissue, indicated by red staining (left). In contrast, the control group shows a development towards bone tissue (right). Credit: University of Basel, Department of Biomedicine

The research team that by forcing certain molecular events during the embryonic development of articular cartilage, it is possible to generate stable cartilage tissue from adult human mesenchymal stem cells. This can be achieved by inhibiting the signalling pathway of a specific protein, bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). Specifically, the scientists investigated two highly specific BMP receptor inhibitors in a microfluid platform. With the use of this new technology, they were able to show that the temporary blocking of specific BMP receptors, even for a limited time, is sufficient to maintain stable cartilage tissue, both in the laboratory and in a mouse model. These results open new prospects in the regeneration of articular cartilage as well as in the establishment of stem cell-based models of cartilage development, physiology and possibly pathology.

Prof. Ivan Martin said, “Importantly, we have achieved our insights by mimicking molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation.”


More Information: Paola Occhetta et al, “Developmentally inspired programming of adult human mesenchymal stromal cells toward stable chondrogenesis,” PNAS (2018). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1720658115


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