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Understanding in vitro chondrogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) is important as it holds great promise for cartilage tissue engineering and other applications. The current technology produces the end tissue quality that is highly variable and dependent on culture conditions. We investigated the effect of nutrient availability on hMSC chondrogenesis in a static aggregate culture system by varying the medium-change frequency together with starting glucose levels. Glucose uptake and lactate secretion profiles were obtained to monitor the metabolism change during hMSC chondrogenesis with different culture conditions. Higher medium-change frequency led to increases in cumulative glucose uptake for all starting glucose levels. Furthermore, increase in glucose uptake by aggregates led to increased end tissue glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and hydroxyproline (HYP) content. The results suggest that increased glucose availability either through increased medium-change frequency or higher initial glucose levels lead to improved chondrogenesis. Also, cumulative glucose uptake and lactate secretion were found to correlate well with GAG and HYP content, indicating both molecules are promising biomarkers for noninvasive assessment of hMSC chondrogenesis. Collectively, our results can be used to design optimal culture conditions and develop dynamic assessment strategies for cartilage tissue engineering applications. Impact statement In this study, we investigated how culture conditions, medium-change frequency and glucose levels, affect chondrogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells in an aggregate culture model. Doubling the medium-change frequency significantly increased the biochemical quality of the resultant tissue aggregates, as measured by their glycosaminoglycan and hydroxyproline content. We attribute this to increased glucose uptake through the glycolysis pathway, as secretion of lactate, a key endpoint product of the glycolysis pathway, increased concurrently. These findings can be used to design optimal culture conditions for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine applications.


Yi Zhong, Arnold I Caplan, Jean F Welter, Harihara Baskaran. Glucose Availability Affects Extracellular Matrix Synthesis During Chondrogenesis In Vitro. Tissue engineering. Part A. 2021 Oct;27(19-20):1321-1332

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PMID: 33499734

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