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Meniscus degeneration is closely related to the progression of knee osteoarthritis (OA). However, there is currently a lack of quantitative and objective metrics to assess OA meniscal cell phenotypes. In this study we investigated the phenotypic markers and chondrogenic potency of avascular and vascular meniscal cells and chondrocytes from medial OA knee joints (n = 10). Flow cytometry results showed that a significantly greater percentage of meniscal cells were positive for CD49b, CD49c and CD166 compared to donor-matched chondrocytes after 14 days in monolayer culture. The integrins, CD49b and CD29, were expressed at a significantly higher level on avascular meniscal cells derived from tissues with a more degenerated inner border than non-degenerate menisci, suggesting that the integrin family may play an important role in meniscus OA pathology. Collagen fibres arranged in a "tree-like" formation within the meniscus appeared to have less blood vessels associated with them in the vascular region of the most degenerate menisci, which may indicate that such structures are involved in the pathological process. We have demonstrated that meniscal cells derived from the lateral meniscus in medial OA patients have chondrogenic capacity in vitro and hence could represent a potential cell source to consider for meniscus tissue engineering.

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Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Antigens, CD, Cell Differentiation, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes, Chondrogenesis, Collagen, Female, Humans, Knee Joint, Male, Meniscus, Middle Aged, Osteoarthritis, Knee, Phenotype, Tissue Donors, Tissue Engineering