Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that strongly correlates with age and promotes the breakdown of joint cartilage and subchondral bone. There has been a surge of interest in developing cell-based therapies, focused particularly on the use of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) isolated from adult tissues. It seems that MSCs derived from synovial joint tissues exhibit superior chondrogenic ability, but their unclear distribution and low frequency actually limit their clinical application. To date, the influence of aging on synovial joint derived MSCs' biological characteristics and differentiation abilities remains unknown, and a full understanding of the mechanisms involved in cellular aging is lacking. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the presence of age-related alterations in synovial fluid MSCs and their influence on the potential ability of MSCs to differentiate toward chondrogenic phenotypes. Synovial fluid MSCs, isolated from healthy equine donors from 3 to 40 years old, were cultured in vitro and stimulated towards chondrogenic differentiation for up to 21 days. An equine model was chosen due to the high degree of similarity of the anatomy of the knee joint to the human knee joint and as spontaneous disorders develop that are clinically relevant to similar human disorders. The results showed a reduction in cell proliferation correlated with age and the presence of age-related tetraploid cells. Ultrastructural analysis demonstrated the presence of morphological features correlated with aging such as endoplasmic reticulum stress, autophagy, and mitophagy. Alcian blue assay and real-time PCR data showed a reduction of efficiency in the chondrogenic differentiation of aged synovial fluid MSCs compared to young MSCs. All these data highlighted the influence of aging on MSCs' characteristics and ability to differentiate towards chondrogenic differentiation and emphasize the importance of considering age-related alterations of MSCs in clinical applications.
- chondrogenic differentiation