The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a complex network of proteins and
glycosaminoglycans which surrounds cells and serves a critical role in directing cell
fate and functions, as well as imparting the necessary mechanical behaviour to the
tissue. To achieve successful cartilage regeneration, stem cells and/or progenitor cells
have to be able to undergo an orderly spatiotemporal differentiation process, along with
specific changes in the ECM expression and deposition, to form a cartilage tissue with
the defined hierarchical matrix organization. In the last decade, significant advances
have been made in our understanding of the role of the ECM during chondrogenesis and
in cartilage homeostasis following differentiation, with some unexpected findings. This
review will survey the major ECM components and their interactions with relevant stem
cell populations for the regeneration of cartilage. Future therapies will likely benefit from a better understanding
and a more precise control of stem cell-ECM interactions implicated in the regenerative response.
Keywords: Basement membrane, cartilage, biomaterials, extracellular matrix, stem cells, pericellular matrix, tissue regeneration.
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