Comparison of nucleus pulposus stem/progenitor cells isolated from degenerated intervertebral discs with umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells
Mesenchymal stem-cell based therapies have been proposed as novel treatments for intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration. The development of these treatment strategies, however, has been hindered by the incomplete understanding of the origin, biological properties of nucleus pulposus (NP) derived stem/progenitor cells and their effects on the IVD degeneration. The goal of this study is to explore the biological properties of NP stem/progenitor cells isolated from degenerated IVD (D-NPMSCs) regarding immunotype, proliferative capacity, multi-lineage differentiation abilities, and the expression of NP specific cell surface markers compared to human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UCMSCs). Our results indicate that although D-NPMSCs shared the mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) characteristics with UCMSCs, significant differences exist in phenotype signatures and biological capacities between D-NPMSCs and UCMSCs. D-NPMSCs expressed lower expression levels of CD29 and CD105, the phenotype markers of MSCs, and exhibited reduced proliferation capability and differentiation potentials, which might account for the distinct NP microenvironment and the poor capacity for disc regeneration. This study will lay a foundation for further understanding the mechanism of stem cell-based therapy for IVD degeneration.