Researchers generate articular chondrocytes from human pluripotent stem cells

A team of scientists from the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Toronto (Canada) has been able to generate articular chondrocytes and cartilage tissue from human pluripotent stem cells in vitro.

Go to the profile of Elena Conroy
May 13, 2015

Pluripotent stem cells are known to have the potential to make most cell types in the body. In this study, the McEwen Center team identified, for the first time, the combination of factors that direct the human stem cells to specifically produce articular chondrocytes, the cells that differentiate into cartilage. The findings were recently published in Nature Biotechnology.

Furthermore, they also demonstrated that these chondrocytes can make cartilage tissue in vitro. With these advances, it is now possible to produce an unlimited supply of chondrocytes and cartilage tissue. These can be utilized for the study of osteoarthritis and for the development of new regenerative medicine-based therapies for treating patients with cartilage damage that would otherwise lead to joint replacement surgery.

"Articular chondrocytes are found on the surface of the bones within the joints and provide the cushioning that deteriorates in osteoarthritis," explains April Craft, Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School. "If we can grow and use these chondrocytes to generate and maintain stable cartilage tissue, we have a tremendous opportunity to study the early events that lead to arthritis, to screen for new drugs to treat this disease, and to investigate how to use this cartilage to repair damaged joints."

Cartilage is an essential part of the joint; it absorbs the impact of movement and enables the joint to move smoothly. Osteoarthritic cartilage progressively deteriorates and eventually causes pain, stiffness, and swelling as a result of bone-on-bone movement in the affected joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and affects one in 10 Canadian adults. At present, there is no cure for advanced osteoarthritis and the only available is joint replacement surgery.

"This is an exciting and encouraging first step in producing functional tissue for joint repair," commented Gordon Keller, Director of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine. "Working with our partners at Mount Sinai Hospital, the Arthritis Program at Toronto Western Hospital, and the University of Guelph, we are proceeding to transplant the stem cell-derived tissue into the joints of animal models to test its ability to repair damaged cartilage."


Craft AM,Rockel JS, Nartiss Y, Kandel RA, Alman BA, Keller GM. Generation of articular chondrocytes from human pluripotent stem cells. Nature Biotechnology, doi: 10.10.38/nbt.3210, (2015) [Epub ahead of print]; McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine press release:

Go to the profile of Elena Conroy

Elena Conroy

Contributor, Future Science Group

If you have any interest in submitting to the journal Regenerative Medicine or have any queries, please don't hesitate to contact my colleague Adam, Commissioning Editor of the journal

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