BACKGROUND: Articular cartilage defects often result in pain, loss of function and finally osteoarthritis. Developing cell-based therapies for cartilage repair is a major goal of orthopaedic research. Autologous chondrocyte implantation is currently the gold standard cell-based surgical procedure for the treatment of large, isolated, full thickness cartilage defects. Several disadvantages such as the need for two surgical procedures or hypertrophic regenerative cartilage, underline the need for alternative cell sources.
OBJECTIVE: Mesenchymal stem cells, particularly synovium-derived mesenchymal stem cells, represent a promising cell source. Synovium-derived mesenchymal stem cells have attracted considerable attention since they display great chondrogenic potential and less hypertrophic differentiation than mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow. The aim of this review was to summarize the current knowledge on the chondrogenic potential for synovial stem cells in regard to cartilage repair purposes.
RESULTS: A literature search was carried out identifying 260 articles in the databases up to January 2017. Several in vitro and initial animal in vivo studies of cartilage repair using synovia stem cell application showed encouraging results. Since synvoium-derived stem cells are located in the direct vicinity of cartilage and cartilage lesions these cells might even contribute to natural cartilage regeneration. The only one published human in vivo study with 10 patients revealed good results concerning postoperative outcome, MRI, and histologic features after a two-stage implantation of synovial stem cells into an isolated cartilage defect of the femoral condyle.
CONCLUSION: Synovium-derived stem cells possess great chondrogenic potential and showed encouraging results for cartilage repair purposes. Furthermore, synovial stem cells play an important role in joint homeostasis and possibly in natural cartilage repair. Further studies are needed to elucidate the interplay of synovial stem cells and chondrocytes, and the promising role of synovium-derived stem cells in cartilage tissue engineering.