A Roadmap of In Vitro Models in Osteoarthritis: A Focus on Their Biological Relevance in Regenerative Medicine

Isabella Bartolotti, Livia Roseti, Mauro Petretta, Brunella Grigolo, Giovanna Desando

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a multifaceted musculoskeletal disorder, with a high prevalence worldwide. Articular cartilage and synovial membrane are among the main biological targets in the OA microenvironment. Gaining more knowledge on the accuracy of preclinical in vitro OA models could open innovative avenues in regenerative medicine to bridge major gaps, especially in translation from animals to humans. Our methodological approach entailed searches on Scopus, the Web of Science Core Collection, and EMBASE databases to select the most relevant preclinical in vitro models for studying OA. Predicting the biological response of regenerative strategies requires developing relevant preclinical models able to mimic the OA milieu influencing tissue responses and organ complexity. In this light, standard 2D culture models lack critical properties beyond cell biology, while animal models suffer from several limitations due to species differences. In the literature, most of the in vitro models only recapitulate a tissue compartment, by providing fragmented results. Biotechnological advances may enable scientists to generate new in vitro models that combine easy manipulation and organ complexity. Here, we review the state-of-the-art of preclinical in vitro models in OA and outline how the different preclinical systems (inflammatory/biomechanical/microfluidic models) may be valid tools in regenerative medicine, describing their pros and cons. We then discuss the prospects of specific and combinatorial models to predict biological responses following regenerative approaches focusing on mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs)-based therapies to reduce animal testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Apr 28 2021


  • 3D scaffolds
  • biomechanical models
  • cartilage
  • in vitro inflammatory models
  • microfluidics models
  • osteoarthritis
  • regenerative medicine
  • synovium


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