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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e26285. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026285. Epub 2011 Oct 18.

Characteristics of stem cells derived from the degenerated human intervertebral disc cartilage endplate.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedics, Xinqiao Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, People's Republic of China.


Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) derived from adult tissues are an important candidate for cell-based therapies and regenerative medicine due to their multipotential differentiation capability. MSCs have been identified in many adult tissues but have not reported in the human intervertebral disc cartilage endplate (CEP). The initial purpose of this study was to determine whether MSCs exist in the degenerated human CEP. Next, the morphology, proliferation capacity, cell cycle, cell surface epitope profile and differentiation capacity of these CEP-derived stem cells (CESCs) were compared with bone-marrow MSCs (BM-MSCs). Lastly, whether CESCs are a suitable candidate for BM-MSCs was evaluated. Isolated cells from degenerated human CEP were seeded in an agarose suspension culture system to screen the proliferative cell clusters. Cell clusters were chosen and expanded in vitro and were compared with BM-MSCs derived from the same patient. The morphology, proliferation rate, cell cycle, immunophenotype and stem cell gene expression of the CESCs were similar to BM-MSCs. In addition, the CESCs could be induced into osteoblasts, adipocytes, chondrocytes, and are superior to BM-MSCs in terms of osteogenesis and chondrogenesis. This study is first to demonstrate the presence of stem cells in the human degenerated CEP. These results may improve our understanding of intervertebral disc (IVD) pathophysiology and the degeneration process, and could provide cell candidates for cell-based regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.

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