One of the most important factors concerning the successful clinical outcome after transplantation of osteochondral allografts is the viability of the cartilage.The viability of cryopreserved cartilage is quite poor, 20–30% cell survival has been published. The purpose of this study was to develop a new storage method which improves the chondrocyte viability. The talus of cadaveric donors was used as a model tissue to compare human osteochondral allograft cartilage viability following cryopreservation with that remaining after prolonged refrigerated storage. Full-thickness cartilage punch biopsies had been cryopreserved, and tali were divided into two matched groups and stored in TCM for 60 days at +4 °C, either with or without regular medium replacement. The cartilage of each graft was biopsied and assayed for viability on every third day by the MTT reduction assay. During 4 °C storage, a recurring pattern of large fluctuations in apparent cartilage viability was observed in every stored graft, with or without medium replacement. These fluctuations did not appear in control specimens of either fresh or cryopreserved human skin that were assayed in parallel with the cartilage biopsies, so the viability fluctuation seems an intrinsic property of the cartilage in these conditions. Cartilage stored for 60 days at +4 °C showed significantly higher viability (35.2 ± 3.3 %) than fresh cartilage that had been cryopreserved (21.6 ± 1.8 %). This was true even when cryopreserved and thawed cartilage was subjected to a 3 day post thaw incubation under presumably favorable conditions (17.7 ± 1.6 %). These viability assay results, (reflective of intracellular metabolic activity), were corroborated by the fluorescent dye mixture SYTO-16 and propidium iodide. The data indicate that long-term stored refrigerated cartilage appears to retain a viability higher than that of cryopreserved cartilage for up to and perhaps beyond 60 days of storage. There was no viability index difference between the medium replaced and non-replaced groups. Although an exceptional result, in one individual case, more than 65% viable cells could be detected in the talar cartilage after 60 days storage at +4 °C.
CartilageOsteochondral allograftsTissue bankingTissue culture media cryopreservationViability