We attempted to characterise the biological quality and regenerative potential of chondrocytes in osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). Dissected fragments from ten patients with OCD of the knee (mean age 27.8 years (16 to 49)) were harvested at arthroscopy. A sample of cartilage from the intercondylar notch was taken from the same joint and from the notch of ten patients with a traumatic cartilage defect (mean age 31.6 years (19 to 52)). Chondrocytes were extracted and subsequently cultured. Collagen types 1, 2, and 10 mRNA were quantified by polymerase chain reaction. Compared with the notch chondrocytes, cells from the dissecate expressed similar levels of collagen types 1 and 2 mRNA. The level of collagen type 10 message was 50 times lower after cell culture, indicating a loss of hypertrophic cells or genes. The high viability, retained capacity to differentiate and metabolic activity of the extracted cells suggests preservation of the intrinsic repair capability of these dissecates. Molecular analysis indicated a phenotypic modulation of the expanded dissecate chondrocytes towards a normal phenotype. Our findings suggest that cartilage taken from the dissecate can be reasonably used as a cell source for chondrocyte implantation procedures.