Xeno-free chondrogenesis of bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells: towards clinical-grade chondrocyte production
Current cell-based cartilage therapies relay on articular cartilage-derived autologous chondrocytes as a cell source, which possesses disadvantages, such as, donor site morbidity and dedifferentiation of chondrocytes during in vitro expansion. Due to these and other limitations, novel cell sources and production strategies are needed. Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) are a fascinating alternative, but they are not spontaneously capable of producing hyaline cartilage-like repair tissue in vivo. In vitro pre-differentiation of BM-MSCs could be used to produce chondrocytes for clinical applications. However, clinically compatible defined and xeno-free differentiation protocol is lacking. Hence, this study aimed to develop such chondrogenic differentiation medium for human BM-MSCs. We assessed the feasibility of the medium using three human BM-MSCs donors and validated the method by comparing BM-MSCs to three other cell types holding potential for articular cartilage repair. The effectiveness of the method was compared to conventional serum-free and commercially available chondrogenic differentiation media. The results show that the defined xeno-free differentiation medium is at least as efficient as conventionally used serum-free chondrogenic medium and performed significantly better on all cell types tested compared to the commercially available chondrogenic medium.