Micromolding-based encapsulation of mesenchymal stromal cells in alginate for intraarticular injection in osteoarthritis


Osteoarthritis (OA) is an inflammatory joint disease that affects cartilage, subchondral bone, and joint tissues. Undifferentiated Mesenchymal Stromal Cells are a promising therapeutic option for OA due to their ability to release anti-inflammatory, immuno-modulatory, and pro-regenerative factors. They can be embedded in hydrogels to prevent their tissue engraftment and subsequent differentiation. In this study, human adipose stromal cells are successfully encapsulated in alginate microgels via a micromolding method. Microencapsulated cells retain their in vitro metabolic activity and bioactivity and can sense and respond to inflammatory stimuli, including synovial fluids from OA patients. After intra-articular injection in a rabbit model of post-traumatic OA, a single dose of microencapsulated human cells exhibit properties matching those of non-encapsulated cells. At 6 and 12 weeks post-injection, we evidenced a tendency toward a decreased OA severity, an increased expression of aggrecan, and a reduced expression of aggrecanase-generated catabolic neoepitope. Thus, these findings establish the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of injecting cells encapsulated in microgels, opening the door to a long-term follow-up in canine OA patients.

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