Notochordal Cell Matrix As a Therapeutic Agent for Intervertebral Disc Regeneration

Tissue Eng Part A. 2018 Jun 29. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEA.2018.0026. [Epub ahead of print]

Notochordal cells (NCs) reside in the core of the healthy disc and produce soluble factors that can stimulate nucleus pulposus cells (NPCs). These NC-derived factors may be applied in intervertebral disc regeneration for treatment of low-back pain. However, identification of the active soluble factors is challenging. Therefore a novel approach to directly use porcine NC-rich NP matrix (NCM) is introduced.

We explored porcine NCM's anabolic effects on bovine NPCs harvested from caudal discs of adolescent and adult (2-2.5 vs. 4-6 year old) cows. NC-conditioned medium (NCCM) and NCM were produced from porcine NC-rich NP tissue. Bovine NPCs were cultured in alginate beads for 4 weeks in base medium (BM), NCCM, and NCM to investigate NCM's regenerative potential.

Porcine NCM increased glycosaminoglycan (GAG) content of both adolescent and adult bovine NPCs. This was through increased proliferation of adolescent bovine NPCs, whereas in adult bovine NPCs, it was mostly through increased GAG production per NPC. Furthermore, adolescent bovine NPCs were cultured in BM and porcine NCM treated with interleukin (IL)-1β to investigate NCM's potential in an inflammatory environment. Addition of IL-1β enhanced IL1β and CXCL8 (IL8) gene expression, while NCM diminished IL1β gene expression. IL-1β reduced GAG and DNA content, but the addition of NCM relative to BM improved GAG and DNA content. Altogether, porcine NCM exerts bovine NPC-age dependent effects, and NCM's anabolic effect on adult NPCs is stronger compared with NCCM. Furthermore, porcine NCM induced an anabolic response of bovine NPCs in an inflammatory environment and may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Therefore, NCM has potential in a regenerative therapy for disc degeneration, and warrants additional in vivo studies.

KEYWORDS: extracellular matrix; notochordal cells; nucleus pulposus; regenerative medicine