Research ArticleRegenerative Medicine

Adult human neural crest–derived cells for articular cartilage repair

Science Translational Medicine  27 Aug 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 251, pp. 251ra119
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009688

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Cells from Nose Repair Tissue in Joint

Cartilage repair remains a yet unmet clinical need, with few viable cell therapy options available. Taking cells from the knee or ankle to repair worn cartilage requires additional surgery and, in turn, pain and healing for the patient. As such, a new, accessible cell source would greatly benefit these patients. Here, Pelttari and colleagues looked up the nose for cells that may have the capacity to regenerate cartilage. Nasal septum cells arise from the neuroectoderm—the tissue that gives rise to the nervous system—and are better at repairing tissues than their mesoderm counterparts. These regenerative capabilities have been attributed to a lack of homeobox (HOX) gene expression. The authors therefore investigated whether nasal chondrocytes (HOX-negative, neuroectoderm origin) were compatible with an articular cartilage environment, like the knee joint (HOX-positive, mesoderm origin). The authors discovered that adult human nasal chondrocytes were able to self-renew and also, to their surprise, adopt a HOX-positive profile upon implantation into a mesoderm environment; in goats, this led to repair of experimental articular cartilage defects. In an ongoing clinical trial, human nasal chondrocytes have been shown to be safe once transplanted, suggesting translation of this new, easy-to-access cell source for repairing damaged joints.