The potential of stem cells in the treatment of knee cartilage defects

Wasim S. Khan, David S. Johnson, Timothy E. Hardingham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Cartilage is frequently damaged but only shows a limited capacity for repair. There are a number of treatment strategies currently available for the repair of articular cartilage defects including abrasion chondroplasty, subchondral drilling, microfracture and mosaicplasty but these show variable results. For the younger patients, there is great interest in the potential of cell-based strategies to provide a biological replacement of damaged cartilage using autologous chondrocytes. The results of clinical studies using these cell-based techniques do not conclusively show improvement over conventional techniques. These techniques also do not consistently result in the formation of the desired hyaline cartilage rather than fibrocartilage. Mesenchymal stem cells present a promising cell source for cartilage repair. Mesenchymal stem cells have been isolated from a number of adult tissues including the bone marrow and the synovial fat pad. These cells have the ability to proliferate in culture and differentiate down different pathways including the chondrogenic pathway. In the first instance, differentiated stem cells can be used for the repair of localised cartilage defects by producing hyaline cartilage. In the future, this strategy has the potential to be extended to treat more generalised cartilage defects, especially as the cell source is not a limiting factor. The use of cell-based therapies also allows the versatility of using scaffolds and growth factors, with recombinant proteins or gene therapy. A number of challenges however still need to be overcome including further work on identifying the optimal source of stem cells, along with refining the conditions that enhance expansion and chondrogenesis. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)369-374
    Number of pages5
    JournalThe Knee
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010


    • Cartilage defects
    • Knee
    • Stem cells


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