Author(s): Chon BH, Lee EJ, Jing L, Setton LA, Chen J
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Abstract INTRODUCTION: Cell supplementation to the herniated or degenerated intervertebral disc (IVD) is a potential strategy to promote tissue regeneration and slow disc pathology. Human umbilical cord mesenchymal stromal cells (HUCMSCs) - originating from the Wharton's jelly - remain an attractive candidate for such endeavors with their ability to differentiate into multiple lineages. Previously, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been studied as a potential source for disc tissue regeneration. However, no studies have demonstrated that MSCs can regenerate matrix with unique characteristics matching that of immature nucleus pulposus (NP) tissues of the IVD. In our prior work, immature NP cells were found to express specific laminin isoforms and laminin-binding receptors that may serve as phenotypic markers for evaluating MSC differentiation to NP-like cells. The goal of this study is to evaluate these markers and matrix synthesis for HUCMSCs cultured in a laminin-rich pseudo-three-dimensional culture system. METHODS: HUCMSCs were seeded on top of Transwell inserts pre-coated with Matrigel™, which contained mainly laminin-111. Cells were cultured under hypoxia environment with three differentiation conditions: NP differentiation media (containing 2.5\% Matrigel™ solution to provide for a pseudo-three-dimensional laminin culture system) with no serum, or the same media supplemented with either insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) or transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1). Cell clustering behavior, matrix production and the expression of NP-specific laminin and laminin-receptors were evaluated at days 1, 7, 13 and 21 of culture. RESULTS: Data show that a pseudo-three-dimensional culture condition (laminin-1 rich) promoted HUCMSC differentiation under no serum conditions. Starting at day 1, HUCMSCs demonstrated a cell clustering morphology similar to that of immature NP cells in situ and that observed for primary immature NP cells within the similar laminin-rich culture system (prior study). Differentiated HUCMSCs under all conditions were found to contain glycosaminoglycan, expressed extracellular matrix proteins of collagen II and laminin α5, and laminin receptors (integrin α3 and β4 subunits). However, neither growth factor treatment generated distinct differences in NP-like phenotype for HUCMSC as compared with no-serum conditions. CONCLUSIONS: HUCMSCs have the potential to differentiate into cells sharing features with immature NP cells in a laminin-rich culture environment and may be useful for IVD cellular therapy.
This article was published in Stem Cell Res Ther
and referenced in Journal of Defense Management