Human meniscus cells from 47 surgically excised menisci were grown in primary culture. Cell proliferation and morphologic features were evaluated in three different culture media. Human meniscus cells showed three distinguishable cell types in monolayer culture: elongated fibroblastlike cells, polygonal cells, and small round chondrocytelike cells. These cells proliferated in Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium, but by Day 7, elongated fibroblastlike cells became predominant. Cells did not proliferate in Ham’s nutrient mixture-F-12. In a mixture of Ham’s nutrient mixture-F-12 and Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium, cells proliferated, maintaining their morphologic features and their ability to express messenger ribonucleic acids for aggrecan and Types I, II, and III collagen. Hyaluronan enhanced cellular proliferation without altering morphologic features or chondroitin sulfate production. Cultured human meniscus cells attached to a porous collagen sponge after cell seeding. Gene transfer was successful and an introduced gene was expressed by the cells, indicating that human meniscus cells can undergo gene manipulation. The finding that cells collected from small surgical specimens of human meniscus could be cultured, propagated, and seeded onto a collagen scaffold holds promise for the development of a cell-based, tissue engineered collagen meniscus.

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