\ud It is likely that effective application of cell-laden implants for cartilage defects depends on retention of implanted cells and interaction between implanted and host cells. The objectives of this study were to characterize stratified cartilaginous constructs seeded sequentially with superficial (S) and middle (M) chondrocyte subpopulations labelled with fluorescent cell tracking dye PKH26 (*) and determine the degree to which these stratified cartilaginous constructs maintain their architecture in vivo after implantation in mini-pigs for 1 week. Alginate-recovered cells were seeded sequentially to form stratified S*/M (only S cells labelled) and S*/M* (both S and M cells labelled) constructs. Full-thickness defects (4 mm diameter) were created in the patellofemoral groove of adult Yucatan mini-pigs and filled with portions of constructs or left empty. Constructs were characterized biochemically, histologically, and biomechanically, and stratification visualized and quantified, before and after implant. After 1 week, animals were sacrificed and implants retrieved. After 1 week in vivo, glycosaminoglycan and collagen content of constructs remained similar to that at implant, whereas DNA content increased. Histological analyses revealed features of an early repair response, with defects filled with tissues containing little matrix and abundant cells. Some implanted (PKH26-labeled) cells persisted in the defects, although constructs did not maintain a stratified organization. Of the labelled cells, 126 +/- 38% and 32 +/- 8% in S*/M and S*/M* constructs, respectively, were recovered. Distribution of labelled cells indicated interactions between implanted and host cells. Longer-term in vivo studies will be useful in determining whether implanted cells are sufficient to have a positive effect in repair.\u
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