Objective: Adipose tissue–derived stem cells (ASCs) are a promising source of cells for articular cartilage regeneration. However, ASCs isolated from different adipose tissue depots have heterogeneous cell characterizations and differentiation potential when cultured in 3-dimensional (3D) niches. Design: We compared the chondrogenicity of ASCs isolated from infrapatellar fat pads (IPFPs) and subcutaneous fat pads (SCFPs) in 3D gelatin-based biomimetic matrix. Results: The IPFP-ASC-differentiated chondrocytes had higher ACAN, COL2A1, COL10, SOX6, SOX9, ChM-1, and MIA-3 mRNA levels and lower COL1A1 and VEGF levels than the SCFP-ASCs in 3D matrix. The difference in mRNA profile may have contributed to activation of the Akt, p38, RhoA, and JNK signaling pathways in the IPFP-ASCs. The chondrocytes differentiated from IPFP-ASCs had pronounced glycosaminoglycan and collagen type II production and a high chondroitin-6-sulfate/chondroitin-4-sulfate ratio with less polymerization of β-actin filaments. In an ex vivo mice model, magnetic resonance imaging revealed a shorter T2 relaxation time, indicating that more abundant extracellular matrix was secreted in the IPFP-ASC–matrix group. Histological examinations revealed that the IPFP-ASC matrix had higher chondrogenic efficacy of new cartilaginous tissue generation as evident in collagen type II and S-100 staining. Conclusion. ASCs isolated from IPFPs may be better candidates for cartilage regeneration, highlighting the translational potential of cartilage tissue engineering using the IPFP-ASC matrix technique.
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