The lack of repair of articular cartilage where the damage does not penetrate the subchondral bone indicates the importance of marrow components in the repair of the articular cartilage. In adult animals, there is an inability of articular cartilage chondrocytes to heal chondral defects, but if the damage extends beyond the subchondral bone, a repair process ensues in which mesenchymal progenitor cells migrate into the injured site and undergo chondrogenic differentiation. However, analysis of animal models and human biopsy samples indicates that fibrocartilage, rather than true articular cartilage is the predominant tissue synthesized. To improve this outcome, the use of cell based implants of culture expanded progenitor cells from various sources has been proposed and attempted. This paper describes some of the age related differences in the natural repair of osteochondral defects, the in vitro characterization of the chondrogenic potential of certain mesenchymal cell types, and some of the characteristics required of cell and matrix constructs that may be used for repair or regeneration of articular cartilage.

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