Composites of chondrocytes and polymerised fibrin were supplemented with insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) during the arthroscopic repair of full-thickness cartilage defects in a model of extensive loss of cartilage in horses. Repairs facilitated with IGF-I and chondrocyte-fibrin composites, or control defects treated with chondrocyte-fibrin composites alone, were compared before death by the clinical appearance and repeated analysis of synovial fluid, and at termination eight months after surgery by tissue morphology, collagen typing, and biochemical assays. The structure of cartilage was evaluated histologically by Toluidine Blue reaction and collagen type-I and type-II in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry. Repair tissue was biochemically evaluated by DNA assay, proteoglycan quantitation and characterisation, assessment of collagen by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography, and collagen typing using cyanogen bromide digestion and peptide separation by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.

The results at eight months showed that the addition of IGF-I to chondrocyte grafts enhanced chondrogenesis in cartilage defects, including incorporation into surrounding cartilage. Gross filling of defects was improved, and the tissue contained a higher proportion of cells producing type-II collagen. Measurements of collagen type II showed improved levels in IGF-I-treated defects, supporting in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemical assessments of the defects. IGF-I improves the repair capabilities of chondrocyte-fibrin grafts in large full-thickness repair models.

  • Received March 15, 2000.
  • Accepted August 25, 2000.