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Link N and mesenchymal stem cells can induce regeneration of the early degenerate intervertebral disc.

Tissue engineering. Part A (2014-05-03)
Fackson Mwale, Hong Tian Wang, Peter Roughley, John Antoniou, Lisbet Haglund
ABSTRACT

Link N is a naturally occurring peptide that can stimulate proteoglycan synthesis in intervertebral disc (IVD) cells. IVD repair can also potentially be enhanced by mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) supplementation to maximize extracellular matrix (ECM) production. In a previous study, we have shown that Link N can inhibit osteogenesis and increase the chondrogenesis of MSCs in vitro. The aim of the present study was to determine the potential of MSCs and Link N alone or in combination with regard to tissue repair in the degenerate disc. Bovine IVDs with trypsin-induced degeneration were treated with MSCs, Link N, or a combination of MSCs and Link N. Trypsin-treated discs were also injected with phosphate-buffered saline to serve as a degeneration control. The ECM proteins and proteoglycans were extracted from the inner nucleus pulposus (NP) of the discs, and sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) were analyzed by the dimethyl methylene blue dye-binding assay. The expression of type II collagen was analyzed by western blot. To track the MSCs after injection, MSCs were labeled with PKH67 and observed under confocal microscopy after the 2 week culture period. The GAG content significantly increased compared with the degeneration control when degenerate discs were treated with MSCs, Link N, or a combination of both Link N and MSCs. Histological analysis revealed that the newly synthesized proteoglycan was able to diffuse throughout the ECM and restore tissue content even in areas remote from the cells. The quantity of extractable type II collagen was also increased when the degenerate discs were treated with MSCs and Link N, either alone or together. MSCs survived, integrated in the tissue, and were found distributed throughout the NP after the 2 week culture period. MSCs and Link N can restore GAG content in degenerate discs, when administered separately or together. Treatment with MSCs and Link N can also increase the expression of type II collagen. The results support the concept that biological repair of disc degeneration is feasible, and that the administration of either MSCs or Link N has therapeutic potential in early stages of the disease.

MATERIALS
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