Continuous passive motion (CPM) is widely used after total knee replacement. In this study, we investigated the effect of CPM combined with cell-based construct-transplantation in osteochondral tissue engineering. We created osteochondral defects (3 mm in diameter and 3 mm in depth) in the medial femoral condyle of 36 knees and randomized them into three groups: ED (empty defect), EPC/PLGA (endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) seeded in the poly lactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) scaffold), or EPC/PLGA/CPM (EPC/PLGA scaffold complemented with CPM starting one day after transplantation). We investigated the effects of CPM and the EPC/PLGA constructs on tissue restoration in weight-bearing sites by histological observation and micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) evaluation 4 and 12 weeks after implantation. After CPM, the EPC/PLGA construct exhibited early osteochondral regeneration and prevention of subchondral bone overgrowth and cartilage degeneration. CPM did not alter the microenvironment created by the construct; it up-regulated the expression of the extracellular matrix components (glycosaminoglycan and collagen), down-regulated bone formation, and induced the biosynthesis of lubricin, which appeared in the EPC/PLGA/CPM group after 12 weeks. CPM can provide promoting signals during osteochondral tissue engineering and achieve a synergistic effect when combined with EPC/PLGA transplantation, so it should be considered a non-invasive treatment to be adopted in clinical practices.
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