Sox9 gene transfer enhanced regenerative effect of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells on the degenerated intervertebral disc in a rabbit model

Wei Sun, Kai Zhang, Guangwang Liu, Wei Ding, Changqing Zhao, Youzhuan Xie, Junjie Yuan, Xiaojiang Sun, Hua Li, Changsheng Liu, Tingting Tang, Jie Zhao
PloS One 2014, 9 (4): e93570

OBJECTIVE: The effect of Sox9 on the differentiation of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) to nucleus pulposus (NP)-like (chondrocyte-like) cells in vitro has been demonstrated. The objective of this study is to investigate the efficacy and feasibility of Sox9-transduced BMSCs to repair the degenerated intervertebral disc in a rabbit model.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fifty skeletally mature New Zealand white rabbits were used. In the treatment groups, NP tissue was aspirated from the L2-L3, L3-L4, and L4-L5 discs in accordance with a previously validated rabbit model of intervertebral disc degeneration and then treated with thermogelling chitosan (C/Gp), GFP-transduced autologous BMSCs with C/Gp or Sox9-transduced autologous BMSCs with C/Gp. The role of Sox9 in the chondrogenic differentiation of BMSCs embedded in C/Gp gels in vitro and the repair effect of Sox9-transduced BMSCs on degenerated discs were evaluated by real-time PCR, conventional and quantitative MRI, macroscopic appearance, histology and immunohistochemistry.

RESULTS: Sox9 could induce the chondrogenic differentiation of BMSCs in C/Gp gels and BMSCs could survive in vivo for at least 12 weeks. A higher T2-weighted signal intensity and T2 value, better preserved NP structure and greater amount of extracellular matrix were observed in discs treated with Sox9-transduced BMSCs compared with those without transduction.

CONCLUSION: Sox9 gene transfer could significantly enhance the repair effect of BMSCs on the degenerated discs.

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