An in vitro system has been developed to study the onset of chondrogenesis. Embryonic rat muscle mesenchymal cells, when treated in suspension culture with an extract of bovine bone matrix, synthesized cartilage-specific proteoglycan and type II collagen. The synthesis of these two macromolecules was assayed by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay inhibition technique. Further evidence of chondrogenesis was demonstrated by morphological changes of treated cells when cultured in firm agarose and stained for metachromatic matrix. Even with crude bone matrix extracts, the assay was sensitive at the microgram level and significant differences in cartilage macromolecules compared with controls were observed in 2-3 d. In vivo the same extract induced first cartilage and then bone.

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