Mesenchymal stem cells in the treatment of articular cartilage degeneration: New biological insights for an old-timer cell

Alessandra Colombini, Carlotta Perucca Orfei, Dimitrios Kouroupis, Enrico Ragni, Paola De Luca, Marco ViganÒ, Diego Correa, Laura de Girolamo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a debilitating, degenerative joint disease characterized by progressive destruction of articular cartilage. Given the poor repair capacity of articular cartilage and the associated local destructive immune/inflammatory responses involving all joint structures, OA frequently ends up as a “whole joint failure” requiring prosthetic replacement. Current pharmacological efforts, belatedly started, mainly aim at symptomatic pain relief, underscoring the need for novel therapeutic schemes designed to modify the course of the disease. Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)–based therapy has gained significant interest, sparking the design of multiple trials proving safety while providing promising preliminary efficacy results. MSCs possess ‘medicinal signaling cell’ properties related to their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects, which induce the establishment of a pro-regenerative microenvironment at the injured tissue. Those trophic effects are paralleled by the long-established chondroprogenitor capacity that can be harnessed to ex vivo fabricate engineered constructs to repair damaged articular cartilage. The present review focuses on these two aspects of the use of MSCs for articular cartilage damage, namely, cell therapy and tissue engineering, providing information on their use criteria, advancements, challenges and strategies to overcome them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1197
Number of pages19
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • articular cartilage degeneration
  • cell priming
  • extracellular vesicles
  • mesenchymal stem cells
  • paracrine activity
  • tissue resident progenitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Oncology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Transplantation


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