Chondrocyte death in injured articular cartilage – in vitro evaluation of chondroprotective strategies using confocal laser scanning microscopy
Amin, Anish Kiritkumar
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A reproducible in vitro model of mechanically injured (scalpel cut) articular cartilage was developed in this work utilising bovine and human osteochondral tissue. Using fluorescence-mode confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), the model allowed (1) spatial and temporal quantification of in situ (within the matrix) chondrocyte viability following a full thickness cartilage injury and (2) serial evaluation of three chondroprotective strategies in injured bovine and human articular cartilage: (a) medium osmolarity (b) medium calcium concentration and, (c) subchondral bone attachment to articular cartilage. Medium osmolarity significantly influenced superficial zone chondrocyte death in injured (scalpel cut) bovine and human articular cartilage. Greatest percentage cell death occurred at 0 mOsm (distilled water). Conversely, a raised medium osmolarity (600 mOsm) was chondroprotective. The majority of in situ cell death occurred within 2.5 hours of the experimental injury, with no further increase over 7 days. Exposure of articular cartilage to calcium-free media significantly decreased superficial zone chondrocyte death in injured (scalpel cut) articular cartilage compared with exposure to calcium-rich media (2-20 mM). In calcium-rich media, the extent of percentage cell death increased with increasing medium calcium concentration but remained localised to the superficial zone of injured articular cartilage over 7 days. However, in calcium-free media, there was an increase in percentage cell death within deeper zones of injured articular cartilage over 7 days. Excision of subchondral bone from injured (scalpel cut) articular cartilage resulted in an increase in chondrocyte death at 7 days that occurred in the superficial zone of injured as well as the adjacent uninjured regions of articular cartilage. However, the presence of subchondral bone in the culture medium prevented this increase in chondrocyte death within the superficial zone. Subchondral bone may have interacted with articular cartilage via soluble mediator(s) that influenced chondrocyte survival. In human articular cartilage, healthy subchondral bone also interacted with articular cartilage in explant culture and promoted in situ chondrocyte survival, while sclerotic subchondral bone was detrimental to chondrocyte viability. These findings are of translational relevance to fluid management systems used during open and arthroscopic articular surgery, clinical and experimental research into cartilage injury, repair and degeneration as well as current techniques of tissue engineering.