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Rheumatology (Oxford). 2014 Apr;53(4):600-10. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ket303. Epub 2013 Sep 18.

In search of nucleus pulposus-specific molecular markers.

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  • 1L9-12, 9/F, Department of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Lab Block, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Hong Kong, China.


Intervertebral disc degeneration usually starts from the inner nucleus pulposus (NP). The majority of previous NP-related studies assessed the outcome by the expression of chondrogenic markers since NP cells are chondrocyte like. However, NP cells are unique from chondrocytes and such assessments may be inappropriate. Very recently, several investigators published their findings about the transcriptional differences between NP cells and other related cell types on a genomic scale. In this review we discuss these recent findings and summarize the molecules that may be utilized as NP-specific markers to distinguish normal NP cells from several cell types and as markers that indicate its degeneration. We will revisit markers that distinguish NP cells from the outer surrounding annulus fibrosus (AF) cells and articular chondrocytes so as to facilitate authentic NP cell engineering from stem cells. Our review indicated that N-cadherin and keratin 19 have the potential to serve as common NP markers, as they distinguish healthy NP cells from AF cells, articular cartilage cells and degenerated NP cells.


CDH2; KRT19; degeneration; intervertebral disc; marker; mesenchymal stem cell; nucleus pulposus

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