Fetal chondrocytes (FCs) have recently been identified as an alternative cell source for cartilage tissue engineering applications because of their partially chondrogenically differentiated phenotype and developmental plasticity. In this study, chondrocytes derived from fetal bovine cartilage were characterized and then cultured on commercially available Cytodex-1 and Biosilon microcarriers and thermosensitive poly(hydroxyethylmethacrylate)-poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PHEMA-PNIPAAm) beads produced by us. Growth kinetics of FCs were estimated by means of specific growth rate and metabolic activity assay. Cell detachment from thermosensitive microcarriers was induced by cold treatment at 4 degrees C for 20 min or enzymatic treatment was applied for the detachment of cells from Cytodex-1 and Biosilon. Although attachment efficiency and proliferation of FCs on PHEMA-PNIPAAm beads were lower than that of commercial Cytodex-1 and Biosilon microcarriers, these beads also supported growth of FCs. Detached cells from thermosensitive beads by cold induction exhibited a normal proliferative activity. Our results indicated that Cytodex-1 microcarrier was the most suitable material for the production of FCs in high capacity, however, 'thermosensitive microcarrier model' could be considered as an attractive solution to the process scale up for cartilage tissue engineering by improving surface characteristics of PHEMA-PNIPAAm beads.