Recent studies indicated that cell-based therapy could be a promising approach to treat intervertebral disc degeneration. Though the harsh microenvironment in disc is still challenging to implanted cells, it could be overcome by pre-conditioning graft cells before transplantation, suggested by previous literatures. Therefore, we designed this study to identify the potential effect of chondrogenic pre-differentiation on adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in intervertebral disc-like microenvironment, characterized by limited nutrition, acidic, and high osmosis in vitro. Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells of rat were divided into five groups, embedded in type II collagen scaffold, and cultured in chondrogenic differentiation medium for 0, 3, 7, 10, and 14 days. Then, the adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells were implanted and cultured in intervertebral disc-like condition. The proliferation and differentiation of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells were evaluated by cell counting kit-8 test, real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, and Western blotting and immunofluorescence analysis. Analyzed by the first week in intervertebral disc-like condition, the results showed relatively greater proliferative capability and extracellular matrix synthesis ability of the adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells pre-differentiated for 7 and 10 days than the control. We concluded that pre-differentiation of rat adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in chondrogenic culture medium for 7 to 10 days could promote the regeneration effect of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells in intervertebral disc-like condition, and the pre-differentiated cells could be a promising cell source for disc regeneration medicine.
Keywords: Intervertebral disc; adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells; chondrocyte-like cells; differentiation; microenvironment; type II collagen.