Low back pain is often related to intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration that results from a progressive loss of proteoglycans and water content in the nucleus pulposus (NP). Autologous disc cell-based therapy is a promising approach for IVD regeneration. Unfortunately, the current in vitro expansion of NP cells in monolayer results in dedifferentiation of these cells. Synovium-derived stem cells (SDSCs) are tissue-specific stem cells for cartilage-like tissue regeneration. Our previous study indicates that SDSC-derived extracellular matrix (ECM) can provide a microenvironment for SDSC rejuvenation by enhancing proliferation capacity and chondrogenic differentiation potential. Since NP cells are chondrocyte-like cells, it is speculated that a more tissue-specific 3D microenvironment can maintain the phenotype of seeded NP cells during ex vivo expansion instead of standard 2D culture. Our most recent study suggests that such an in vitro 3D microenvironment benefits porcine NP cells by allowing them to expand more efficiently while maintaining their differentiation phenotypes. In this study, we hypothesize that decellularized matrix deposited by human SDSCs (hSDSCs) from fetal donors can serve as a tissue-specific high-quality microenvironment for ex vivo expansion of human NP cells from elderly patients while maintaining NP cell differentiated phenotype and re-differentiation potential.
Two specific aims will be performed: (1) comparison of expansion efficiency of human NP cells from herniated discs when grown on ECM deposited by hSDSCs from either fetal or adult donors;and (2) exploration of the underlying mechanism by evaluating global gene expression in human NP cells expanded on ECM from either fetal or adult donors using microarray analysis. Our long-term goal is to develop an autologous disc cell-based minimally invasive therapeutic approach toward physiological reconstruction of a biologically functional disc in a clinical setting.

Public Health Relevance

Autologous cell shortage is a big hurdle in clinical treatment of disc degeneration. Decellularized matrix deposited by tissue-specific stem cells provides a novel system for high-quality cell expansion. The aim of this study is to evaluate the feasibility f using tissue-specific matrix deposited by fetal synovial stem cells to expand human nucleus pulposus cells from elderly patients for disc regeneration.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAR1-EHB (M1))
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Wang, Fei
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West Virginia University
Schools of Medicine
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