Fresh osteochondral allografts represent a treatment option for early ankle posttraumatic arthritis. Transplanted cartilage survivorship, integration, and colonization by recipient cells have not been fully investigated. The aim of this study was to evaluate the ability of recipient cells to colonize the allograft cartilage and to assess allograft cell phenotype.Methods:
Seventeen ankle allograft samples were studied. Retrieved allograft cartilage DNA from fifteen cases was compared with recipient and donor constitutional DNA by genotyping. In addition, gene expression was evaluated on six allograft cartilage samples by means of real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Histology and immunohistochemistry were performed to support molecular observations.Results:
Of fifteen genotyped allografts, ten completely matched to the host, three matched to the donor, and two showed a mixed profile. Gene expression analysis showed that grafted cartilage expressed cartilage-specific markers.Conclusions:
The rare persistence of donor cells and the prevailing presence of host DNA in retrieved ankle allografts suggest the ingrowth of recipient cells into the allograft cartilage, presumably migrating from the subchondral bone, in accordance with morphological findings. The expression of chondrogenic markers in some of the samples argues for the acquisition of a chondrocyte-like phenotype by these cells.Clinical Relevance:
To our knowledge, this is the first report describing the colonization of ankle allograft cartilage by host cells showing the acquisition of a chondrocyte-like phenotype.