A chondrocyte progenitor population isolated from the surface zone of articular cartilage presents a promising cell source for cell-based cartilage repair. In this study, equine articular cartilage progenitor cells (ACPCs) and equine bone marrow-derived stromal cells (BMSCs) were compared as potential cell sources for repair.
Clonally derived BMSCs and ACPCs demonstrated expression of the cell fate selector gene, Notch-1, and the putative stem cell markers STRO-1, CD90 and CD166. Chondrogenic induction revealed positive labelling for collagen type II and aggrecan. Collagen type X was not detected in ACPC pellets but was observed in all BMSC pellets. In addition, it was observed that BMSCs labelled for Runx2 and matrilin-1 antibodies, whereas ACPC labelling was significantly less or absent. For both cell types, osteogenic induction revealed positive von Kossa staining in addition to positive labelling for osteocalcin.
Adipogenic induction revealed a positive result via oil red O staining in both cell types. ACPCs and BMSCs have demonstrated functional equivalence in their multipotent differentiation capacity. Chondrogenic induction of BMSCs resulted in a hypertrophic cartilage (endochondral) phenotype, which can limit cartilage repair as the tissue can undergo mineralisation. ACPCs may therefore be considered superior to BMSCs in producing cartilage capable of functional repair.