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Stem Cells International
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 7053465, 11 pages
Research Article

Successful Low-Cost Scaffold-Free Cartilage Tissue Engineering Using Human Cartilage Progenitor Cell Spheroids Formed by Micromolded Nonadhesive Hydrogel

1Laboratório de Bioengenharia Tecidual, Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia (Inmetro), Duque de Caxias, RJ, Brazil
2Programa de Pós-graduação em Biotecnologia, Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia (Inmetro), Duque de Caxias, RJ, Brazil
3Programa de Pós-graduação em Biomedicina Translacional, Universidade do Grande Rio (UNIGRANRIO), Duque de Caxias, RJ, Brazil
4Núcleo Multidisciplinar de Pesquisa em Biologia (Numpex-Bio), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) Polo de Xerém, Duque de Caxias, RJ, Brazil
5Department of Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
6Escola de Odontologia, Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Niterói, RJ, Brazil
7Regenerative Medicine Center, Sechenov Medical University, Moscow, Russia

Correspondence should be addressed to Leandra S. Baptista

Received 19 July 2017; Revised 5 October 2017; Accepted 31 October 2017; Published 20 December 2017

Academic Editor: Celeste Scotti

Copyright © 2017 Mellannie P. Stuart et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The scaffold-free tissue engineering using spheroids is pointed out as an approach for optimizing the delivery system of cartilage construct. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the micromolded nonadhesive hydrogel (MicroTissues®) for spheroid compaction (2-day culture) and spontaneous chondrogenesis (21-day culture) using cartilage progenitors cells (CPCs) from human nasal septum without chondrogenic stimulus. CPC spheroids showed diameter stability (486 μm ± 65), high percentage of viable cells (88.1 ± 2.1), and low percentage of apoptotic cells (2.3%). After spheroid compaction, the synthesis of TGF-β1, TGF-β2, and TGF-β3 was significantly higher compared to monolayer (). Biomechanical assay revealed that the maximum forces applied to spheroids after chondrogenesis were 2.6 times higher than for those cultured for 2 days. After spontaneous chondrogenesis, CPC spheroids were entirely positive for N-cadherin, collagen type II and type VI, and aggrecan and chondroitin sulfate. Comparing to monolayer, the expression of SOX5 and SOX6 genes analyzed by qPCR was significantly upregulated (). Finally, we observed the capacity of CPC spheroids starting to fuse. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in the scientific literature that human CPC spheroids were formed by micromolded nonadhesive hydrogel, achieving a successful scaffold-free cartilage engineering without chondrogenic stimulus (low cost).