It has been reported that demineralized bone matrix (cortical or trabecular bone) contains intrinsic cytokines. In the present study, we tested allogeneic demineralized bone matrix for its capacity to resurface osteochondral defects in a rabbit model with the assumption that the intrinsic cytokines in demineralized bone matrix will facilitate the recruitment of progenitor cells from bone marrow into the defect. It was further assumed that these intrinsic bioactive factors would modulate these cells to differentiate into osteochondrogenic lineage and, thus, functionally repair the osteochondral defect. The biocompatibility of demineralized bone matrix was first tested by loading rabbit bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells into porous demineralized trabecular bone matrix that was then cultured for 3 days. The cell growth in demineralized trabecular bone matrix was examined by scanning electron microscopy. Loaded rabbit bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells attached to the trabeculae of demineralized trabecular bone matrix; some cells appeared to be round and others were spread and contacted other cells. Allogeneic rabbit demineralized cortical bone matrix or demineralized trabecular bone matrix was implanted into a full-thickness osteochondral defect in the load-bearing area of the medial femoral condyle of young adult rabbits. At 6 and 12 weeks after surgery, gross and histological examination showed that the defects were repaired up to 95% of their depth. The repair tissue using demineralized cortical bone matrix was composed of subchondral bone and a top layer of cartilage that was smooth and integrated with the adjacent cartilage in most of the specimens. Most of the repair tissue in the defect filled with demineralized trabecular bone matrix had a fibrillated surface without integration with the adjacent cartilage. These results indicate that demineralized cortical bone matrix may be potentially useful to repair osteochondral defects by managing the host’s intrinsic reparative cells.

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