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Biomaterials. 2008 Jan;29(1):85-93.

Human mesenchymal stem cell differentiation to NP-like cells in chitosan-glycerophosphate hydrogels.

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  • 1UK Centre for Tissue Regeneration, Tissue Injury and Repair Group, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is one of the major causes of low back pain. As current clinical treatments are aimed at restoring biomechanical function and providing symptomatic relief, interest in methods focused on biological repair has increased. Several tissue engineering approaches using different cell types and hydrogels/scaffolds have been proposed. Owing to the unsuitable nature of degenerate cells for tissue engineering attention has focused on the use of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Additionally, while rigid scaffolds have been demonstrated to allow MSC differentiation to the chondrocyte-like cells of the IVD, hydrogels are being increasingly studied as they allow minimally invasive implantation without extensive damage to the IVD. Here, we have studied the temperature-sensitive hydrogel chitosan-glycerophosphate (C/Gp), seeded with human MSCs and cultured for 4 weeks in standard medium. We have analysed the gene and protein expression profile of the MSCs and compared it to that of both nucleus pulposus (NP) cells and articular chondrocytes cultured in C/Gp. Gene expression analysis for chondrocytic-cell marker genes demonstrated differentiation of MSCs to a phenotype which showed similarities to both articular chondrocytes and NP cells. Conventional PCR demonstrated a lack of expression of osteogenic marker genes and the hypertrophic marker gene type X collagen. MSCs also secreted both proteoglycans and collagens in a ratio, which more closely resembled that of NP cells than articular chondrocytes. These results therefore suggest that MSC-seeded C/Gp gels could be used clinically for the regeneration of the degenerate human IVD.

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