Impact of direct cell co-cultures on human adipose-derived stromal cells and nucleus pulposus cells

J Orthop Res. 2013 Nov;31(11):1804-13. doi: 10.1002/jor.22439. Epub 2013 Aug 2.


Biologic and cellular treatment strategies aiming for curing intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD) have been proposed recently. Given the convenient availability and expansion potential, adipose-derived stromal cells (ADSCs) might be an ideal cell candidate. However, the interaction between ADSCs and nucleus pulposus (NP) cells still remains ambiguous, especially in direct co-cultures of the two types of cells. Nevertheless, NP markers in ADSCs after co-cultures were unidentified. Here, we addressed the interaction of human ADSCs and NP cells in a direct co-culture system for the first time. As a result, ADSCs could differentiate to the NP cell phenotype with a significant up-regulated expression of multiple genes and proteins in extracellular matrix (ECM) (SOX9, COL2A1, ACAN, and COL6A2), relative NP markers (FOXF1, PAX1, CA12, and HBB) and pertinent growth factors (CDMP-1, TGF-β1, IGF-1, and CTGF). Moreover, the gene expression of COL2A1, ACAN, and COL6A2 of degenerate NP cells was also up-regulated. Collectively, these results suggest that direct co-cultures of ADSCs and NP cells may exert a reciprocal impact, that is, both stimulating ADSCs differentiation to the NP cell phenotype and inducing NP cells to regain functional phenotype. Accordingly, ADSCs might be a potential candidate in the development of cellular treatment strategies for IDD.

Keywords: adipose-derived stem cells; direct co-culture; intervertebral disc degeneration; nucleus pulposus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology*
  • Adult
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / cytology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Degeneration / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stromal Cells / cytology*