The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential role of polyglycolic acid (PGA), poly(glycolic acid-ε-caprolactone) (PGCL), poly(l-lactic acid-glycolic acid) (PLGA), poly(l-lactic acid-ε-caprolactone, 75:25 (w/w)) [P(LA-CL)25], poly-ε-caprolactone (tetrabutoxy titanium) [PCL(Ti)], and fullerene C-60 dimalonic acid (DMA) in cartilage transplants. After 4 weeks of culture of human articular cartilage, the levels of cell proliferation and differentiation and the expression of cartilage-specific matrix genes were estimated. The relationship between cell differentiation and gap junction protein connexin 43 (Cx43) was also evaluated. All materials except PCL(Ti) retained cell proliferation activities similar to the controls. Cell differentiation levels from the highest to the lowest were in the following order: PGA >> PLGA > PGCL > Control = DMSO > P(LA-CL)25 = PCL(Ti) >> fullerene C-60 DMA. Expression of the collagen type II gene was selectively upregulated for PGA, PGCL, and PLGA and slightly increased for P(LA-CL)25 polymers but was downregulated for fullerene C-60 DMA. Aggrecan gene expression was strongest with PGA and was consistently expressed with other matrices, especially with PGCL and PLGA. However, the expression patterns of the connexin 43 gene were different from the former two genes. Multiple regression analysis revealed a high correlation between cartilage proteoglycans production and expression levels of these three genes.
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