When ruptured, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of the human knee has limited regenerative potential. However, the goal of this report was to show that the cells that migrate out of the human ACL constitute a rich population of progenitor cells and we hypothesize that they display mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) characteristics when compared with adherent cells derived from bone marrow or collagenase digests from ACL. We show that ACL outgrowth cells are adherent, fibroblastic cells with a surface immunophenotype strongly positive for cluster of differentiation (CD)29, CD44, CD49c, CD73, CD90, CD97, CD105, CD146, and CD166, weakly positive for CD106 and CD14, but negative for CD11c, CD31, CD34, CD40, CD45, CD53, CD74, CD133, CD144, and CD163. Staining for STRO-1 was seen by immunohistochemistry but not flow cytometry. Under suitable culture conditions, the ACL outgrowth-derived MSCs differentiated into chondrocytes, osteoblasts, and adipocytes and showed capacity to self-renew in an in vitro assay of ligamentogenesis. MSCs derived from collagenase digests of ACL tissue and human bone marrow were analyzed in parallel and displayed similar, but not identical, properties. In situ staining of the ACL suggests that the MSCs reside both aligned with the collagenous matrix of the ligament and adjacent to small blood vessels. We conclude that the cells that emigrate from damaged ACLs are MSCs and that they have the potential to provide the basis for a superior, biological repair of this ligament.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering