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

2015   Volume No 29 – pages 202-212

Title: Intervertebral disc repair with activated nucleus pulposus cell transplantation: a three-year, prospective clinical study of its safety

Author: J Mochida, D Sakai, Y Nakamura, T Watanabe, Y Yamamoto, S Kato

Address: Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Surgical Science, Tokai University School of Medicine, 143 Shimokasuya, Isehara Kanagawa, 259-1193, Japan

E-mail: jomo at

Key Words: Intervertebral disc repair, cell transplantation, nucleus pulposus cells, mesenchymal stromal cells, cell-to-cell contact co-culture, safety of activated nucleus pulposus cells.

Publication date: March 20th 2015

Abstract: Degeneration of the lumbar intervertebral discs is irreversible, with no treatment currently available. Building upon experimental studies that demonstrated the importance of the nucleus pulposus (NP) in preserving disc structure, we demonstrated that reinsertion of NP cells slowed further disc degeneration and that direct cell-to-cell contact co-culture with mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) significantly upregulated the viability of NP cells in basic and pre-clinical studies in vitro and in vivo using animal models and human cells. Here, we report a 3-year result of a prospective clinical study, aimed to assess the safety and efficacy of activated NP cell transplantation in the degenerate lumbar intervertebral disc. Candidates were 9 patients aged 20-29 years who had Pfirrmann’s grade III disc degeneration at the level adjacent to the level scheduled for posterior lumbar intervertebral fusion. Viable NP cells from the fused disc were co-cultured in direct contact with autologous bone marrow-derived MSCs. One million activated NP cells were transplanted into the degenerated disc adjacent to the fused level at 7 d after the first fusion surgery. No adverse effects were observed during the 3-year follow-up period. Magnetic resonance imaging did not show any detrimental effects to the transplanted discs and revealed a mild improvement in 1 case. No cases reported any low back pain. Our clinical study confirmed the safety of activated NP cell transplantation, and the findings suggest the minimal efficacy of this treatment to slow the further degeneration of human intervertebral discs.

Article download: Pages 202-212 (PDF file)
DOI: 10.22203/eCM.v029a15