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Adipose stem cells can secrete angiogenic factors that inhibit hyaline cartilage regeneration

Christopher SD Lee1, Olivia A Burnsed1, Vineeth Raghuram1, Jonathan Kalisvaart2, Barbara D Boyan1* and Zvi Schwartz13

Author Affiliations

1 Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering and Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, Georgia Institute of Technology, 315 Ferst Drive NW, Atlanta, GA, 30332-0363, USA

2 Georgia Pediatric Urology, 5445 Meridian Marks Rd NE #220, Atlanta, GA, 30342-1341, USA

3 Department of Periodontics, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX, 78229-3900, USA

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Stem Cell Research & Therapy 2012, 3:35  doi:10.1186/scrt126

Published: 24 August 2012



Adipose stem cells (ASCs) secrete many trophic factors that can stimulate tissue repair, including angiogenic factors, but little is known about how ASCs and their secreted factors influence cartilage regeneration. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the effects ASC-secreted factors have in repairing chondral defects.


ASCs isolated from male Sprague Dawley rats were cultured in monolayer or alginate microbeads supplemented with growth (GM) or chondrogenic medium (CM). Subsequent co-culture, conditioned media, and in vivo cartilage defect studies were performed.


ASC monolayers and microbeads cultured in CM had decreased FGF-2 gene expression and VEGF-A secretion compared to ASCs cultured in GM. Chondrocytes co-cultured with GM-cultured ASCs for 7 days had decreased mRNAs for col2, comp, and runx2. Chondrocytes treated for 12 or 24 hours with conditioned medium from GM-cultured ASCs had reduced sox9, acan, and col2 mRNAs; reduced proliferation and proteoglycan synthesis; and increased apoptosis. ASC-conditioned medium also increased endothelial cell tube lengthening whereas conditioned medium from CM-cultured ASCs had no effect. Treating ASCs with CM reduced or abolished these deleterious effects while adding a neutralizing antibody for VEGF-A eliminated ASC-conditioned medium induced chondrocyte apoptosis and restored proteoglycan synthesis. FGF-2 also mitigated the deleterious effects VEGF-A had on chondrocyte apoptosis and phenotype. When GM-grown ASC pellets were implanted in 1 mm non-critical hyaline cartilage defects in vivo, cartilage regeneration was inhibited as evaluated by radiographic and equilibrium partitioning of an ionic contrast agent via microCT imaging. Histology revealed that defects with GM-cultured ASCs had no tissue ingrowth from the edges of the defect whereas empty defects and defects with CM-grown ASCs had similar amounts of neocartilage formation.


ASCs must be treated to reduce the secretion of VEGF-A and other factors that inhibit cartilage regeneration, which can significantly influence how ASCs are used for repairing hyaline cartilage.