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Int J Mol Med. 2018 Oct;42(4):2193-2202. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2018.3766. Epub 2018 Jul 12.

Regenerative potential of human nucleus pulposus resident stem/progenitor cells declines with ageing and intervertebral disc degeneration.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital, Jinan University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510630, P.R. China.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Preclinical Medicine, Jinan University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510632, P.R. China.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Jinan University, Guangzhou, Guangdong 510632, P.R. China.
Orthopaedic Surgery, Centro Hospitalar Conde de Sao Januario, Macao 999078, P.R. China.


Numerous studies have demonstrated the presence of resident nucleus pulposus stem/progenitor cells (NPSCs) in the tissue of the intervertebral disc (IVD). However, the cellular identity of NPSCs during IVD degeneration and ageing are poorly defined at present, despite significant progress in the understanding of NPSC biology. In the present study, NPSCs were isolated from human degenerated IVD and were characterized by flow cytometry, gene expression assays and proliferation and multipotency analysis. The results of the present study demonstrated that NPSCs isolated from human degenerated IVD may be divided into two groups according to the expression of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) surface markers: The high expression of MSC surface markers group (H‑NPSCs) was highly positive for CD29, CD44, CD73, CD90 and CD105 at rates >95%, and the low expression of MSC markers surface markers group (L‑NPSCs), with the expression of CD29 and CD105 exhibiting individual variability, however, all at rates <95%. The donors for H‑NPSCs were aged <20 years, while the majority of donors for L‑NPSCs were aged >25 years, with one exception aged <20 years. The results highlighted that the low expression of MSC surface markers in NPSCs from aged and degenerated NP tissues were associated with a low rate of proliferation and reduced differentiation potential, as well as downregulation of the NP progenitor marker Tie2 and higher expression of NP cell‑specific markers. These findings demonstrated that the regenerative potential of human NPSCs declines with ageing and degeneration of the IVD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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