Effects of hypoxia on differentiation from human placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells to nucleus pulposus-like cells

Li Ni, Xiaochen Liu, Kyle R Sochacki, Miranda Ebraheim, Matthew Fahrenkopf, Qin Shi, Jiayong Liu, Huilin Yang
Spine Journal: Official Journal of the North American Spine Society 2014 October 1, 14 (10): 2451-8

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Low back pain is a frequently occurring disease caused by intervertebral disc degeneration. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a possible treatment modality. Studies have shown MSCs can be transformed into nucleus pulposus-like cells under normoxic conditions. However, this is not a true representation of the hypoxic environment nucleus pulposus cells experience during in vivo growth and differentiation.

PURPOSE: To determine the effects of a hypoxic environment on the differentiation of human placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells (PMSCs) to nucleus pulposus-like cells.

STUDY DESIGN: An experimental study.

METHODS: Placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells were cultured and the mesenchymal lineage was confirmed by flow cytometry. Two groups of PMSCs were then cultured under different oxygen concentrations creating a hypoxic group and normoxic group. The proliferation of cells in each group was compared by cell counting kit-8 on Day 1, 3, 5, and 7. Real-time polymerase chain reaction on Days 3 and 7 compared the expressions of Sox-9, Type II collagen, aggrecan, and hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) between the two groups. Immunofluorescence was used to compare the expression of Type II collagen between the two groups after 14 days.

RESULTS: Placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells were successfully isolated and cultured. Mesenchymal markers were positive. On Days 3 and 5, the hypoxic group had a significantly higher proliferation rate than the normoxic group (p<.05). The expression of Sox-9 and HIF-1α was significantly higher (p<.05) in the hypoxic group at Days 3 and 7. Type II collagen and aggrecan expressions were significantly higher (p<.05) in the hypoxic group at Day 7. The hypoxic group stained more positive for Type II collagen at Day 14.

CONCLUSIONS: Hypoxic conditions lead to an increased differentiation and proliferation of nucleus pulposus-like cells. Placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells cultured in nucleus pulposus inducing media and a hypoxic environment show enhanced expression of the nucleus pulposus-like cell markers, Sox-9, Type II collagen, aggrecan, and HIF-1α.

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