Native nucleus pulposus tissue matrix promotes notochordal differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells with potential for treating intervertebral disc degeneration

Yongxing Liu, Susan Fu, Mohamed N Rahaman, Jeremy J Mao, B Sonny Bal
Journal of Biomedical Materials Research. Part A 2015, 103 (3): 1053-9
Native porcine nucleus pulposus (NP) tissue harbors a number of notochordal cells (NCs). Whether the native NP matrix supports the homeostasis of notochordal cells is poorly understood. We hypothesized the NP matrix alone may contain sufficient regulatory factors and can serve as stimuli to generate notochordal cells (NCs) from human pluripotent stem cells. NCs are a promising cell sources for cell-based therapy to treat some types of intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. One major limitation of this emerging technique is the lack of available NCs as a potential therapeutic cell source. Human pluripotent stem cells derived from reprogramming or somatic cell nuclear transfer technique may yield stable and unlimited source for therapeutic use. We devised a new method to use porcine NP matrix to direct notochordal differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The results showed that hiPSCs successfully differentiated into NC-like cells under the influence of devitalized porcine NP matrix. The NC-like cells expressed typical notochordal marker genes including brachyury (T), cytokeratin-8 (CK-8) and cytokeratin-18 (CK-18), and they displayed the ability to generate NP-like tissue in vitro, which was rich in aggrecan and collagen type II. These findings demonstrated the proof of concept for using native NP matrix to direct notochordal differentiation of hiPSCs. It provides a foundation for further understanding the biology of NCs, and eventually towards regenerative therapies for disc degeneration.

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