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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2003 Apr 15;28(8):755-63.

Potential use of Sox9 gene therapy for intervertebral degenerative disc disease.

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Molecular Oncology Laboratory and the Spine Center, Department of Surgery, University of Chicago Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois 60640, USA.



A new recombinant adenoviral vector expressing Sox9, a chondrocyte-specific transcription factor, was tested in a chondroblastic cell line and primary human intervertebral disc cells in vitro. Direct infection of intervertebral disc cells then was assessed in a rabbit model.


To deliver a potentially therapeutic viral vector expressing Sox9 to degenerative human and rabbit intervertebral discs cells, and to assess the effect of Sox9 expression on Type 2 collagen production.


The concentration of competent Type 2 collagen, an essential constituent of the healthy nucleus pulposus, declines with intervertebral disc degeneration. Recent studies suggest that Sox9 upregulates Type 2 collagen production. Interventions that augment Type 2 collagen production by intervertebral disc cells may represent a novel therapeutic method for patients with degenerative disc disease.


Adenoviral delivery vectors expressing Sox9 and green fluorescent protein were constructed using the AdEasy system. The chondroblastic cell line, HTB-94, and cultured human degenerated intervertebral disc cells were infected with the vectors. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemical analyses were performed to document increased Type 2 collagen expression. The AdSox9 virus then was injected directly into the intervertebral discs of three rabbits. After 5 weeks, the injected discs were evaluated histologically.


The AdSox9 virus efficiently transduced HTB-94 cells and degenerated human disc cells. Western blot analysis confirmed increased Sox9 production. Increased Type 2 collagen production was demonstrated in infected HTB-94 and human disc cells using both reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemical staining. In the rabbit model, cells infected with AdSox9 maintained a chondrocytic phenotype, and the architecture of the nucleus pulposus was preserved over a 5-week study period compared to control discs.


A novel adenoviral vector efficiently increased Sox9 and Type 2 collagen synthesis in cultured chondroblastic cells and human degenerated disc cells. In a rabbit model, sustained Sox9 production preserved the histologic appearance of the nucleus pulposus cells in vivo. These findings suggest a potential role for Sox9 gene therapy in the treatment of human degenerative disc disease.

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