eCM (Eur Cell Mater / e Cells & Materials) Not-for-Profit Open Access
Created by Scientists, for Scientists
 ISSN:1473-2262         NLM:100973416 (link)         DOI:10.22203/eCM

2018   Volume No 36 – pages 200-217

Title: Thermoreversible hyaluronan-hydrogel and autologous nucleus pulposus cell delivery regenerates human intervertebral discs in an ex vivo, physiological organ culture model

Authors: DH Rosenzweig, R Fairag, AP Mathieu, L Li, D Eglin, M D’Este, T Steffen, MH Weber, JA Ouellet, L Haglund

Address: Department of Surgery, Montreal General Hospital, Room C10.148.2, 1650 Cedar Ave, Montreal, QC H3G 1A4, Canada.

E-mail: lisbet.haglund at

Abstract: Numerous studies show promise for cell-based tissue engineering strategies aiming to repair painful intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. However, clinical translation to human IVD repair is slow. In the present study, the regenerative potential of an autologous nucleus pulposus (NP)-cell-seeded thermoresponsive hyaluronic acid hydrogel in human lumbar IVDs was assessed under physiological conditions. First, agarose-encased in vitro constructs were developed, showing greater than 90 % NP cell viability and high proteoglycan deposition within HA-pNIPAM hydrogels following 3 weeks of dynamic loading. Second, a bovine-induced IVD degeneration model was used to optimise and validate T1ρ magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for detection of changes in proteoglycan content in isolated intact IVDs. Finally, isolated intact human lumbar IVDs were pre-scanned using the established MRI sequence. Then, IVDs were injected with HA-pNIPAM hydrogel alone or autologous NP-cell-seeded. Next, the treated IVDs were cultured under cyclic dynamic loading for 5 weeks. Post-treatment T1ρ values were significantly higher as compared to pre-treatment scans within the same IVD and region of interest. Histological evaluation of treated human IVDs showed that the implanted hydrogel alone accumulated proteoglycans, while those that contained NP cells also displayed neo-matrix-surrounded cells within the gel. The study indicated a clinical potential for repairing early degenerative human IVDs using autologous cells/hydrogel suspensions. This unique IVD culture set-up, combined with the long-term physiological culture of intact human IVDs, allowed for a more clinically relevant evaluation of human tissue repair and regeneration, which otherwise could not be replicated using the available in vitro and in vivo models.

Key Words: Hydrogel, T1ρ magnetic resonance imaging, human intervertebral disc, bioreactors, tissue engineering, nucleus pulposus, autologous cell implantation.

Publication date: October 25th 2018

Article download: Pages 200-217 (PDF file)

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