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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Jan 2024 - 2 Feb 2024

2024 Feb 01

Sci Rep




Effect of a retinoic acid analogue on BMP-driven pluripotent stem cell chondrogenesis.


Mancini FE, Humphreys PEA, Woods S, Bates N, Cuvertino S, O'Flaherty J, Biant L, Domingos MAN, Kimber SJ


Osteoarthritis is the most common degenerative joint condition, leading to articular cartilage (AC) degradation, chronic pain and immobility. The lack of appropriate therapies that provide tissue restoration combined with the limited lifespan of joint-replacement implants indicate the need for alternative AC regeneration strategies. Differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into AC progenitors may provide a long-term regenerative solution but is still limited due to the continued reliance upon growth factors to recapitulate developmental signalling processes. Recently, TTNPB, a small molecule activator of retinoic acid receptors (RARs), has been shown to be sufficient to guide mesodermal specification and early chondrogenesis of hPSCs. Here, we modified our previous differentiation protocol, by supplementing cells with TTNPB and administering BMP2 at specific times to enhance early development (referred to as the RAPID-E protocol). Transcriptomic analyses indicated that activation of RAR signalling significantly upregulated genes related to limb and embryonic skeletal development in the early stages of the protocol and upregulated genes related to AC development in later stages. Chondroprogenitors obtained from RAPID-E could generate cartilaginous pellets that expressed AC-related matrix proteins such as Lubricin, Aggrecan, and Collagen II, but additionally expressed Collagen X, indicative of hypertrophy. This protocol could lay the foundations for cell therapy strategies for osteoarthritis and improve the understanding of AC development in humans.