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OBJECTIVE: Chondrocyte behavior is very sensitive to culture environment such as physical and biochemical conditions. As extracellular pH (pHo) and the existence of bicarbonate could affect the chondrocyte fate, hence, the purpose of this study is to investigate the buffer system effect on chondrocyte fate during relatively long-term culture. METHODS: In order to examine whether effects seen were due to bicarbonate or to pHo, we had to devise a system which could differentiate between the two effects. Culture media buffered by N-2-hydroxyethyl piperazine-N'-2-ethanesulfonic acid (HEPES) only and the combination of HEPES and bicarbonate were used. Bovine articular chondrocytes were cultured in alginate beads for up to 12 days. pHo was kept constant by culture of 3 beads in 2 ml culture medium. Cell density, intracellular pH (pHi) and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) were measured at day 5 and day 12. Cell morphology, distribution and viability in alginate beads were monitored over 12 days of culture. RESULTS: Compared to culture in the absence of bicarbonate, a higher proliferation rate of chondrocytes was observed in the presence of bicarbonate. pHi was more alkaline, about 0.2 pH unit, in the presence of bicarbonate than that in the absence of bicarbonate. About 50% more GAG was deposited in alginate beads when chondrocytes were cultured in the combination of HEPES and bicarbonate, compared to chondrocytes cultured in the absence of NaHCO3 at the end of 12 days of culture. CONCLUSION: The presence of bicarbonate results in more alkaline in the pHi of bovine chondrocytes after long-term culture. The combination of bicarbonate and HEPES in culture medium improves cell growth, matrix production in three-dimensional alginate beads.

Original publication




Journal article


Osteoarthritis Cartilage

Publication Date





396 - 402


Alginates, Cell Culture Techniques, Cells, Cultured, Chondrocytes, HEPES, Humans, Sodium Bicarbonate