Stem Cell Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Stem Cell Treatment for Degenerative Disc Disease

Degeneration of the intervertebral disc, often called "degenerative disc disease" (DDD) of the spine, is a condition that can be painful and can greatly affect the quality of one's life.


While disc degeneration is a normal part of aging and for most people is not a problem, for certain individuals a degenerated disc can cause severe constant chronic pain. Often, degenerative disc disease can be successfully treated without surgery. One or a combination of treatments such as physical therapy, chiropractic manipulative therapy (CMT) and other chiropractic treatments, osteopathic manipulation, anti-inflammatory medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, traction, or spinal injections often provide adequate relief of these troubling symptoms.

Degenerative discs typically show degenerative fibrocartilage and clusters of chondrocytes, suggestive of repair. Inflammation may or may not be present. Histologic examination of disc fragments resected for presumed DDD is routine to exclude malignancy.

Fibrocartilage replaces the gelatinous mucoid material of the nucleus pulposus as the disc changes with age. There may be splits in the annulus fibrosis, permitting herniation of elements of nucleus pulposus. There may also be shrinkage of the nucleus pulposus that produces prolapse of the annulus with secondary osteophyte formation at the margins of the adjacent vertebral body.

The pathologic findings in DDD include protrusion, spondylolysis, and/or subluxation of vertebrae (sponylolisthesis) and spinal stenosis.


Stem Cell Treatment and Degenerative Disc Disease NIH Streaming Database

Matrix stiffness determines the fate of nucleus pulposus-derived stem cells. Biomaterials. 2015 May;49:68-76 Authors: Navaro Y, Bleich-Kimelman N, Hazanov L, Mironi-Harpaz I, Shachaf Y, Garty S, Smith Y, Pelled G, Gazit D, Seliktar D, Gazit Z Abstract Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration and consequent low-back pain present a major medical challenge. Nucleus pulposus-derived stem cells (NP-SCs) may lead to a novel therapy for this severe disease. It was recently shown that survival and function of mature NP cells are regulated in part by tissue stiffness. We hypothesized that modification of matrix stiffness will influence the ability of cultured NP-SCs to proliferate, survive, and differentiate into mature NP cells. NP-SCs were subcultured in three-dimensional matrices of varying degrees of stiffness as measured by the material's shear storage modulus. Cell survival, activity, and rate of differentiation toward the chondrogenic or osteogenic lineage were analyzed. NP-SCs were found to proliferate and differentiate in all matrices, irrespective of matrix stiffness. However, matrices with a low shear storage modulus (G' = 1 kPa) promoted significantly more proliferation and chondrogenic differentiation, whereas matrices with a high modulus (G' = 2 kPa) promoted osteogenic differentiation. Imaging performed via confocal and scanning electron microscopes validated cell survival and highlighted stiffness-dependent cell-matrix interactions. These results underscore the effect of the matrix modulus on the fate of NP-SCs. This research may facilitate elucidation of the complex cross-talk between NP-SCs and their surrounding matrix in healthy as well as pathological conditions. PMID: 25725556 [PubMed - in process]

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