Reconstitution of degenerated ovine lumbar discs by STRO-3-positive allogeneic mesenchymal precursor cells combined with pentosan polysulfate

David Oehme, Peter Ghosh, Tony Goldschlager, Silviu Itescu, Susan Shimon, Jiehua Wu, Courtney McDonald, John M. Troupis, Jeffrey V. Rosenfeld, Graham Jenkin

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OBJECTIVE: Disc degeneration and associated low-back pain are major causes of suffering and disability. The authors examined the potential of mesenchymal precursor cells (MPCs), when formulated with pentosan polysulfate (PPS), to ameliorate disc degeneration in an ovine model. METHODS: Twenty-four sheep had annular incisions made at L2-3, L3-4, and L4-5 to induce degeneration. Twelve weeks after injury, the nucleus pulposus of a degenerated disc in each animal was injected with ProFreeze and PPS formulated with either a low dose (0.1 million MPCs) or a high dose (0.5 million MPCs) of cells. The 2 adjacent injured discs in each spine were either injected with PPS and ProFreeze (PPS control) or not injected (nil-injected control). The adjacent noninjured L1-2 and L5-6 discs served as noninjured control discs. Disc height indices (DHIs) were obtained at baseline, before injection, and at planned death. After necropsy, 24 weeks after injection, the spines were subjected to MRI and morphological, histological, and biochemical analyses. RESULTS: Twelve weeks after the annular injury, all the injured discs exhibited a significant reduction in mean DHI (low-dose group 17.19%; high-dose group 18.01% [p < 0.01]). Twenty-four weeks after injections, the discs injected with the low-dose MPC+PPS formulation recovered disc height, and their mean DHI was significantly greater than the DHI of PPS- and nil-injected discs (p < 0.001). Although the mean Pfirrmann MRI disc degeneration score for the low-dose MPC+PPS-injected discs was lower than that for the nil- and PPS-injected discs, the differences were not significant. The disc morphology scores for the nil- and PPS-injected discs were significantly higher than the normal control disc scores (p < 0.005), whereas the low-dose MPC+PPS-injected disc scores were not significantly different from those of the normal controls. The mean glycosaminoglycan content of the nuclei pulposus of the low-dose MPC+PPS-injected discs was significantly higher than that of the PPS-injected controls (p < 0.05) but was not significantly different from the normal control disc glycosaminoglycan levels. Histopathology degeneration frequency scores for the low-dose MPC+PPS-injected discs were lower than those for the PPS- and Nil-injected discs. The corresponding high-dose MPC+PPS-injected discs failed to show significant improvements in any outcome measure relative to the controls. CONCLUSIONS: Intradiscal injections of a formulation composed of 0.1 million MPCs combined with PPS resulted in positive effects in reducing the progression of disc degeneration in an ovine model, as assessed by improvements in DHI and morphological, biochemical, and histopathological scores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)715-726
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Degenerative
  • Disc regeneration
  • Mesenchymal precursor cell
  • Pentosan polysulfate
  • Sheep model

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