Aggrecan, the major proteoglycan in cartilage, serves to protect cartilage tissue from damage and degradation during the progression of osteoarthritis (OA). In cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM) aggrecan exists in an aggregate composed of several aggrecan molecules that bind to a single filament of hyaluronan. Each molecule of aggrecan is composed of a protein core and glycosaminoglycan sides chains, the latter of which provides cartilage with the ability to retain water and resist compressive loads. During the progression of OA, loss of aggrecan is considered to occur first, after which other cartilage matrix components become extremely susceptible to degradation. Proteolytic cleavage of the protein core of aggrecan by enzymes such as aggrecanases, prevent its binding to HA and lower cartilage mechanical strength. Here we present the use of HA-binding or collagen type II-binding molecules that functionally mimic aggrecan but lack known cleavage sites, protecting the molecule from proteolytic degradation. These molecules synthesized with chondroitin sulfate backbones conjugated to hyaluronan- or collagen type II- binding peptides are capable of diffusing through a cartilage explant and adhering to the ECM of this tissue. The objective of this study was to test the functional efficacy of these molecules in an ex vivo osteoarthritic model to discern the optimal molecule for further studies. Different variations of chondroitin sulfate conjugated to the binding peptides were diffused through aggrecan depleted explants and assessed for their ability to enhance compressive stiffness, prevent CS degradation, and modulate catabolic (MMP-13 and ADAMTS-5) and anabolic (aggrecan and collagen type II) gene expression. A pilot in vivo study assessed the ability to retain the molecule within the joint space of an osteoarthritic guinea pig model. The results indicate chondroitin sulfate conjugated to hyaluronan-binding peptides is able to significantly restore equilibrium modulus and prevent CS degradation. All molecules demonstrated the ability to lower catabolic gene expression in aggrecan depleted explants. In order to enhance biosynthesis and regeneration, the molecules need to be coupled with an external stimulant such as a growth factor. The chondroitin sulfate molecule synthesized with HA-binding peptides demonstrated adherence to cartilage tissue and retention up to 6 h in an ambulatory joint. Further studies will monitor the in vivo residence time and ability of the molecules to act as a disease-modifying agent.