Nasal chondrocytes (NCs) have a higher and more reproducible chondrogenic capacity than articular chondrocytes, and the engineered cartilage tissue they generate in vitro has been demonstrated to be safe in clinical applications. Here, we aimed at determining the feasibility for a single-stage application of NCs for cartilage regeneration under minimally invasive settings. In particular, we assessed whether NCs isolated using a short collagenase digestion protocol retain their potential to proliferate and chondro-differentiate within an injectable, swiftly cross-linked and matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP)-degradable polyethylene glycol (PEG) gel enriched with human platelet lysate (hPL). NC-hPL-PEG gels were additionally tested for their capacity to generate cartilage tissue in vivo and to integrate into cartilage/bone compartments of human osteochondral plugs upon ectopic subcutaneous implantation into nude mice. NCs isolated with a rapid protocol and embedded in PEG gels with hPL at low cell density were capable of efficiently proliferating and of generating tissue rich in glycosaminoglycans and collagen II. NC-hPL-PEG gels developed into hyaline-like cartilage tissues upon ectopic in vivo implantation and integrated with surrounding native cartilage and bone tissues. The delivery of NCs in PEG gels containing hPL is a feasible strategy for cartilage repair and now requires further validation in orthotopic in vivo models.
Keywords: cartilage regeneration; autologous chondrocyte implantation; nasal chondrocytes; single-stage; arthroscopy; tissue engineering; polyethylene glycol; hydrogel; platelet lysate