Background: Articular cartilage has limited healing capacity, owing in part to poor vascularity and innervation. Once injured, it cannot be repaired, typically leading to high risk for developing osteoarthritis. Thus, cell-based and/or tissue-engineered approaches have been investigated; however, no approach has yet achieved safety and regenerative repair capacity via a simple implantation procedure. Purpose: To assess the safety and efficacy of using a scaffold-free tissue-engineered construct (TEC) derived from autologous synovial membrane mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) for effective cartilage repair. Study Design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4. Methods: Five patients with symptomatic knee chondral lesions (1.5-3.0 cm2) on the medial femoral condyle, lateral femoral condyle, or femoral groove were included. Synovial MSCs were isolated from arthroscopic biopsy specimens and cultured to develop a TEC that matched the lesion size. The TECs were then implanted into chondral defects without fixation and assessed up to 24 months postoperatively. The primary outcome was the safety of the procedure. Secondary outcomes were self-assessed clinical scores, arthroscopy, tissue biopsy, and magnetic resonance image–based estimation of morphologic and compositional quality of the repair tissue. Results: No adverse events were recorded, and self-assessed clinical scores for pain, symptoms, activities of daily living, sports activity, and quality of life were significantly improved at 24 months after surgery. Secure defect filling was confirmed by second-look arthroscopy and magnetic resonance imaging in all cases. Histology of biopsy specimens indicated repair tissue approaching the composition and structure of hyaline cartilage. Conclusion: Autologous scaffold-free TEC derived from synovial MSCs may be used for regenerative cartilage repair via a sutureless and simple implantation procedure. Registration: 000008266 (UMIN Clinical Trials Registry number).
- cartilage repair
- clinical study
- mesenchymal stem cell
- scaffold free
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation