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Transplanted Stem Cells Prevent Disc Degeration
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cweinbl posted:
Intervertebral discs lie between adjacent vertebrae in the spine and are composed of three major structures called nucleus pulposus, annulus fibrosus, and cartilage end plates. The nucleus pulposus of normal disc includes sparse chondrocytes surrounded by extracellular matrix which mainly consist of type II collagen and proteoglycan. It functions as a shock absorber against mechanical load due to its highly hydrophilic structure. Intervertebral disc degeneration accompanies aging, and it causes low back pain. To regenerate intervertebral discs, various approaches applying cytokines, gene transfection, and nucleus pulposus cells have been attempted in animal models. Some reports have demonstrated that transplantation of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) delayed degeneration of the nucleus pulposus.

An increasing number of reports have shown that MSCs can be isolated from other various mesenchymal tissues other than bone marrow, and that their similarities as MSCs and the specificities dependent of their MSC source are emerging [a name=IDA2ITTE> [a name=IDA5ITTE> . This comparative in vivo study showed that bone marrow MSCs and synovial MSCs produced a higher amount of cartilage matrix than adipose MSCs and muscle MSCs after transplantation into articular cartilage defect of the knee in rabbits. It also demonstrated that synovial MSCs expanded faster than bone marrow MSCs when cultured with 10% human autologous serum. This study investigated whether intradiscal transplantation of synovial MSCs delayed disc degeneration in a rabbit model. MSCs labeled with DiI or derived from green fluorescent protein (GFP) expressing transgenic rabbit were used for tracking of transplanted cells. Furthermore, human synovial MSCs and rat nucleus pulposus cells were co-cultured in vitro, and their interaction was clarified by a species specific microarray system. Finally, it demonstrated the effectiveness and limitations of this method and advocated a possible mechanism to prevent intervertebral disc degeneration in a rabbit model.

Intradiscal transplantation of synovial MSCs prevented intervertebral disc degeneration in vivo. Co-culture assay in vitro revealed that nucleus pulposus cells dramatically changed their gene profile by interaction with synovial MSCs to inhibit expressions of the genes for degradative enzymes and inflammatory cytokines.

At 2, 4, 6, 8, 16, 24 weeks postoperatively, the study evaluated with imaging analyses such as X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and histological analysis. To investigate interaction between synovial MSCs and nucleus pulposus cells, human synovial MSCs and rat nucleus pulposus cells were co-cultured, and species specific microarray were performed.

The implications of stem cell research are now focused upon regenration of disc material, which has the capacity to reduce or even eliminate the nociceptive and neuropathic pain associated with degenerative disc disease. This disease (and I have had it congenitally all of my life) can rob individuals of jobs, income and quality of life. For the first time, there is hope of rebuilding dessicated discs without the damage associated with surgical implantation of synthetic discs (where available).

This study, of course, is only a small step in the right direction. It must be successfully repeated with animals prior to human testing. Thus, we might be years away from human stem cell transplantation. However, it presents hope for the rebuilding of discs without the need for significantly invasive surgical procedures that even with a successful outcome, often leave the patient with ancillary damage and new pain.

Read the entire research report here: http://arthritis-research.com/content/12/6/R206 #.
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