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Patients undergoing articular cartilage paste grafting have been shown in studies to have significant improvement in pain and function in long-term follow-ups. We hypothesized that ex vivo impacting of osteochondral autografts results in higher chondrocyte matrix production versus intact osteochondral autograft plugs. This institutional review board-approved study characterizes the effects of impacting osteochondral plugs harvested from the intercondylar notch of 16 patients into a paste, leaving one graft intact as a control. Cell viability/proliferation, collagen type I/II, SOX-9, and aggrecan gene expression via qRT-PCR (quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) were analyzed at 24 and 48 hours. Matrix production and cell morphology were evaluated using histology. Paste samples from patients (mean age 39.7) with moderate (19%) to severe (81%) cartilage lesions displayed 34% and 80% greater cell proliferation compared to plugs at 24 and 48 hours post processing, respectively (P = 0.015 and P = 0.021). qRT-PCR analysis yielded a significant (P = 0.000) increase of aggrecan, SOX-9, collagen type I and II at both 24 and 48 hours. Histological examination displayed cell division throughout paste samples, with accumulation of aggrecan around multiple chondrocyte lacunae. Paste graft preparation resulted in increased mobility of chondrocytes by matrix disruption without loss of cell viability. The impaction procedure stimulated chondrocyte proliferation resulting in a cellular response to reestablish native extracellular matrix. Analysis of gene expression supports a regenerative process of cartilage tissue formation and contradicts long-held beliefs that impaction trauma leads to immediate cell death. This mechanism of action translates into clinical benefit for patients with moderate to severe cartilage damage.


Daniel Grande, Todd Goldstein, Thomas J Turek, Susan Hennessy, Ann W Walgenbach, Le Hanh Dung Do, David Greene, Kevin R Stone. Osteochondral Autograft Plugs versus Paste Graft: Ex Vivo Morselization Increases Chondral Matrix Production. Cartilage. 2021 Dec;13(1_suppl):1058S-1065S

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PMID: 32396463

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