Interaction of human mesenchymal stem cells with disc cells: Changes in extracellular matrix biosynthesis

Catherine Le Visage, Seok Woo Kim, Kei Tateno, Ann N. Sieber, John P. Kostuik, Kam W. Leong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN. To evaluate the in vitro interactions between human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and degenerative disc cells. OBJECTIVES. To demonstrate the potential of MSCs in regulating the extracellular matrix synthesis of degenerative disc cells. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA. Culture of degenerative disc cells followed by their reinsertion into a disc can retard the degeneration process in an animal model. However, harvesting cells without accelerating degeneration is problematic. Autologous MSCs can be safely harvested from the bone marrow and transplanted into degenerative discs. METHODS. Human degenerative nucleus pulposus (NP), anulus fibrosus (AF) cells, and MSCs were cultured as pellets, and coculture pellets were formed by addition of MSCs to disc cells (50:50 ratio). Glycosaminoglycan (GAG) and DNA content were measured. Proteoglycan synthesis was analyzed by RT-PCR and western blot. Type II collagen expression was assessed by immunohistochemistry. RESULTS. Coculture pellets formed by the addition of MSCs to AF cells were superior in size to all other pellets. AF/MSC pellets showed higher experimental GAG content than the predicted values represented by the sum of individual control pellets, with 10.2 versus 5.6 μg/pellet at week 3, respectively. The effect was not observed in the NP/MSC coculture, or when chondrogenic medium was used. Close contact between cells was necessary to obtain this enhancement of GAG content. Proteoglycan and collagen expression in both individual and coculture pellets was confirmed by PCR analysis and western blot. CONCLUSION. Addition of MSCs to AF cells resulted in an up-regulation of the proteoglycans synthesis. This study provides the rationale for further investigation of the potential of MSC therapy in treating intervertebral disc degeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2036-2042
Number of pages7
Issue number18
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Disc degeneration
  • Extracellular matrix
  • Intervertebral disc
  • Mesenchymal stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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