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Original Article
October 2001

Age Dependence of Cellular Properties of Human Septal Cartilage: Implications for Tissue Engineering

Author Affiliations

From the Center for Tissue Engineering, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester (Drs Rotter, Bonassar, Lebl, Roy, and Vacanti); Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, Munich, Germany (Dr Rotter); and Department of Otolaryngology, Englewood Hospital, Englewood, NJ (Dr Tobias).

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2001;127(10):1248-1252. doi:10.1001/archotol.127.10.1248

Background  The persistent need for cartilage replacement material in head and neck surgery has led to novel cell culture methods developed to engineer cartilage. Currently, there is no consensus on an optimal source of cells for these endeavors.

Objectives  To evaluate human nasal cartilage as a potential source of chondrocytes and to determine the effect of donor age on cellular and proliferation characteristics.

Subjects  Nasal cartilage specimens were obtained after reconstructive surgery from 46 patients ranging in age from 15 to 60 years.

Methods  Specimens were weighed and chondrocytes were isolated by digestion in 0.2% collagenase type II for 16 hours. Cells were maintained in primary cultures until confluency, then seeded onto polylactic acid–polyglycolic acid scaffolds. Seeding efficency was determined by quantification of DNA content of seeded constructs by means of Hoechst dye 33258. Specimen weights, cell yields, cell content, and doubling time were also measured and correlated to donor age.

Results  Mean (±SD) cartilage mass obtained (648 ± 229 mg) is higher than from typical biopsy specimens of auricular cartilage, and the cellular characteristics show a higher proliferation rate than auricular chondrocytes. Cell yield increased with age, while doubling time decreased with age in samples from patients ranging from 15 to 60 years old.

Conclusions  The use of nasal septal cartilage as a source of cells for tissue engineering may be valid over a wide range of patient ages. The large tissue yield and consequent cell yield make this tissue a potential starting source of chondrocytes for large-volume tissue-engineered implants.