Introduction: Regenerative therapy using chondrocyte sheets is effective for osteoarthritis. The clinical application of chondrocyte sheet therapy is expected to be further advanced by the use of a feasible cryopreservation technique. Previously, we developed a chondrocyte sheet vitrification method; however, it was too complex to be used for routine clinical application. Here, we aimed to develop a prototype method for vitrifying chondrocyte sheets for clinical practice. Methods: We developed a “circulating vitrification bag” as a container to process cell sheets for vitrification in an efficient and sanitary fashion. Moreover, we invented the “vitrification storage box”, which is useful for the vitrification of cell sheets, long-term preservation, and transportation. These devices were used to vitrify rabbit chondrocyte sheets, which were then assessed for their structural characteristics and the viability of the component cells after rewarming. Results: In all cell sheet samples (n = 7) vitrified by the circulating vitrification bag method, the integrity of the sheet structure was maintained, and the cell survival rate was similar to that of non-vitrified samples (91.0 ± 2.9% vs. 90.0 ± 3.0%). Proteoglycan and type II collagen, which are major components of cartilage, were densely and evenly distributed throughout the chondrocyte sheet subjected to vitrification similarly to that observed in the non-vitrified sheet. After long-term storage using the vitrification storage box, the cell sheets maintained normal structure and cell viability (survival rate: 81.2 ± 1.0% vs. 84.3 ± 1.8%) compared to the non-vitrified sheet. Conclusion: Our results indicate that the circulating vitrification bag method is an effective approach for realizing the clinical application of vitrified chondrocyte sheets. The vitrification storage box is also useful for the long-term preservation of vitrified cell sheets, further enhancing the feasibility of the clinical application of cryopreserved chondrocyte sheets.
- Cell sheet