In Press
Gazit Z, Pelled G, Sheyn D, Cohn Yakubovich D, Gazit D. Mesenchymal Stem Cells. In: Principles of Regenerative Medicine. Elsevier; In Press
Shapiro G, Lieber R, Gazit D, Pelled G. Recent Advances and Future of Gene Therapy for Bone Regeneration [Internet]. Current Osteoporosis Reports 2018; Publisher's VersionAbstract

Purpose of Review The purpose of this review is to discuss the recent advances in gene therapy as a treatment for bone regeneration. While most fractures heal spontaneously, patients who present with fracture nonunion suffer from prolonged pain, disability, and often require additional operations to regain musculoskeletal function.

Recent Findings In the last few years, BMP gene delivery by means of electroporation and sonoporation resulted in repair of nonunion bone defects in mice, rats, and minipigs. Ex vivo transfection of porcine mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) resulted in bone regeneration following implantation in vertebral defects of minipigs. Sustained release of VEGF gene from a collagenhydroxyapatite scaffold to the mandible of a human patient was shown to be safe and osteoinductive.

Summary In conclusion, gene therapy methods for bone regeneration are systematically becoming more efficient and show proof-of-concept in clinically relevant animal models. Yet, on the pathway to clinical use, more investigation is needed to determine the safety aspects of the various techniques in terms of biodistribution, toxicity, and tumorigenicity.

Bez M, Kremen TJ, Tawackoli W, Avalos P, Sheyn D, Shapiro G, Giaconi JC, David SB, Snedeker JG, Gazit Z. Ultrasound-mediated Gene Delivery Enhances Tendon Allograft Integration in Mini-pig Ligament Reconstruction [Internet]. Molecular Therapy 2018; Publisher's VersionAbstract

Ligament injuries occur frequently, substantially hindering routine daily activities and sports participation in patients. Surgical reconstruction using autogenous or allogeneic tissues is the gold standard treatment for ligament injuries. Although surgeons routinely perform ligament reconstructions, the integrity of these reconstructions largely depends on adequate biological healing of the interface between the ligament graft and the bone. We hypothesized that localized ultrasound-mediated, microbubble-enhanced therapeutic gene delivery to endogenous stem cells would lead to significantly improved ligament graft integration. To test this hypothesis, an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction procedure was performed in Yucatan mini-pigs. A collagen scaffold was implanted in the reconstruction sites to facilitate recruitment of endogenous mesenchymal stem cells. Ultrasound-mediated reporter gene delivery successfully transfected 40% of cells recruited to the reconstruction sites. When BMP-6 encoding DNA was delivered, BMP-6 expression in the reconstruction sites was significantly enhanced. Micro-computed tomography and biomechanical analyses showed that ultrasound-mediated BMP-6 gene delivery led to significantly enhanced osteointegration in all animals 8 weeks after surgery. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that ultrasound-mediated gene delivery to endogenous mesenchymal progenitor cells can effectively improve ligament reconstruction in large animals, thereby addressing a major unmet orthopedic need and offering new possibilities for translation to the clinical setting.

Shapiro G, Pelled G, Gazit D. Consideration of Biological Sex in Translating Regenerative Stem Cell Therapies. In: Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine. Elsevier; 2017 p. 443-458.
Bez M, Sheyn D, Tawackoli W, Avalos P, Shapiro G, Giaconi JC, Da X, David SB, Gavrity J, Awad HA, Bae HW, Ley EJ, Kremen TJ, Gazit Z, Ferrara KW, Pelled G, Gazit D. In situ bone tissue engineering via ultrasound-mediated gene delivery to endogenous progenitor cells in mini-pigs [Internet]. Sci Transl Med 2017;9(390) Publisher's VersionAbstract
More than 2 million bone-grafting procedures are performed each year using autografts or allografts. However, both options carry disadvantages, and there remains a clear medical need for the development of new therapies for massive bone loss and fracture nonunions. We hypothesized that localized ultrasound-mediated, microbubble-enhanced therapeutic gene delivery to endogenous stem cells would induce efficient bone regeneration and fracture repair. To test this hypothesis, we surgically created a critical-sized bone fracture in the tibiae of Yucatan mini-pigs, a clinically relevant large animal model. A collagen scaffold was implanted in the fracture to facilitate recruitment of endogenous mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells (MSCs) into the fracture site. Two weeks later, transcutaneous ultrasound-mediated reporter gene delivery successfully transfected 40% of cells at the fracture site, and flow cytometry showed that 80% of the transfected cells expressed MSC markers. Human bone morphogenetic protein-6 (BMP-6) plasmid DNA was delivered using ultrasound in the same animal model, leading to transient expression and secretion of BMP-6 localized to the fracture area. Micro-computed tomography and biomechanical analyses showed that ultrasound-mediated BMP-6 gene delivery led to complete radiographic and functional fracture healing in all animals 6 weeks after treatment, whereas nonunion was evident in control animals. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that ultrasound-mediated gene delivery to endogenous mesenchymal progenitor cells can effectively treat nonhealing bone fractures in large animals, thereby addressing a major orthopedic unmet need and offering new possibilities for clinical translation.
Lavi A, Pelled G, Tawackoli W, Casap N, Gazit D, Gazit Z. Isolation and characterization of mesenchymal stromal progenitors from the temporomandibular joint disc [Internet]. J Tissue Eng Regen Med 2017;11(5):1553-1561. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) complex affect 6-12% of the population; the joint's disc is usually involved. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine may constitute a promising therapeutic approach, with resident stromal progenitor cells a key factor in the process. We hypothesized that the TMJ disc (TMJD) contains multipotent stromal progenitors that may play an important role in regeneration of the disc. TMJD cells were cultured and evaluated for growth kinetics and colony-forming units (CFUs). Single cell-derived clones were isolated and induced to differentiate toward the osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic lineages by culturing in various induction media. Flow cytometry was used to identify multipotent stromal cell surface markers in additional cell samples, and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to determine gene expression patterns within isolated cells. High numbers of CFUs were observed, indicating cell self-renewal. Biochemical assays showed significantly higher alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, lipid droplet concentration and glycosaminoglycan levels in cells cultured in osteogenic, adipogenic and chondrogenic induction medium, respectively. Approximately 1% of the total cell population demonstrated the capability to differentiate into all three mesenchymal lineages. Chondrogenic gene levels within TMJD-derived cells were significantly reduced in passaged culture. Our results support the hypothesis that multipotent stromal progenitor cells populate the TMJD and possess proliferation and differentiation capabilities. These cells may contribute to the regeneration potential of dysfunctional tissue and become the primary component in future attempts at tissue engineering or regeneration of this complex. Copyright (c) 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Shapiro G, Bez M, Tawackoli W, Gazit Z, Gazit D, Pelled G. Semiautomated Longitudinal Microcomputed Tomography-based Quantitative Structural Analysis of a Nude Rat Osteoporosis-related Vertebral Fracture Model [Internet]. J Vis Exp 2017;(127) Publisher's VersionAbstract
Osteoporosis-related vertebral compression fractures (OVCFs) are a common and clinically unmet need with increasing prevalence as the world population ages. Animal OVCF models are essential to the preclinical development of translational tissue engineering strategies. While a number of models currently exist, this protocol describes an optimized method for inducing multiple highly reproducible vertebral defects in a single nude rat. A novel longitudinal semiautomated microcomputed tomography (microCT)-based quantitative structural analysis of the vertebral defects is also detailed. Briefly, rats were imaged at multiple time points post-op. The day 1 scan was reoriented to a standard position, and a standard volume of interest was defined. Subsequent microCT scans of each rat were automatically registered to the day 1 scan so the same volume of interest was then analyzed to assess for new bone formation. This versatile approach can be adapted to a variety of other models where longitudinal imaging-based analysis could benefit from precise 3D semiautomated alignment. Taken together, this protocol describes a readily quantifiable and easily reproducible system for osteoporosis and bone research. The suggested protocol takes 4 months to induce osteoporosis in nude ovariectomized rats and between 2.7 and 4 h to generate, image, and analyze two vertebral defects, depending on tissue size and equipment.
Cohn Yakubovich D, Sheyn D, Bez M, Schary Y, Yalon E, Sirhan A, Amira M, Yaya A, de Mel S, Da X, Ben-David S, Tawackoli W, Ley EJ, Gazit D, Gazit Z, Pelled G. Systemic administration of mesenchymal stem cells combined with parathyroid hormone therapy synergistically regenerates multiple rib fractures [Internet]. Stem Cell Res Ther 2017;8(1):51. Publisher's VersionAbstract
BACKGROUND: A devastating condition that leads to trauma-related morbidity, multiple rib fractures, remain a serious unmet clinical need. Systemic administration of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) has been shown to regenerate various tissues. We hypothesized that parathyroid hormone (PTH) therapy would enhance MSC homing and differentiation, ultimately leading to bone formation that would bridge rib fractures. METHODS: The combination of human MSCs (hMSCs) and a clinically relevant PTH dose was studied using immunosuppressed rats. Segmental defects were created in animals' fifth and sixth ribs. The rats were divided into four groups: a negative control group, in which animals received vehicle alone; the PTH-only group, in which animals received daily subcutaneous injections of 4 mug/kg teriparatide, a pharmaceutical derivative of PTH; the hMSC-only group, in which each animal received five injections of 2 x 106 hMSCs; and the hMSC + PTH group, in which animals received both treatments. Longitudinal in vivo monitoring of bone formation was performed biweekly using micro-computed tomography (muCT), followed by histological analysis. RESULTS: Fluorescently-dyed hMSCs were counted using confocal microscopy imaging of histological samples harvested 8 weeks after surgery. PTH significantly augmented the number of hMSCs that homed to the fracture site. Immunofluorescence of osteogenic markers, osteocalcin and bone sialoprotein, showed that PTH induced cell differentiation in both exogenously administered cells and resident cells. muCT scans revealed a significant increase in bone volume only in the hMSC + PTH group, beginning by the 4th week after surgery. Eight weeks after surgery, 35% of ribs in the hMSC + PTH group had complete bone bridging, whereas there was complete bridging in only 6.25% of ribs (one rib) in the PTH-only group and in none of the ribs in the other groups. Based on the muCT scans, biomechanical analysis using the micro-finite element method demonstrated that the healed ribs were stiffer than intact ribs in torsion, compression, and bending simulations, as expected when examining bone callus composed of woven bone. CONCLUSIONS: Administration of both hMSCs and PTH worked synergistically in rib fracture healing, suggesting this approach may pave the way to treat multiple rib fractures as well as additional fractures in various anatomical sites.
Cohn Yakubovich D, Eliav U, Yalon E, Schary Y, Sheyn D, Cook-Wiens G, Sun S, McKenna CE, Lev S, Binshtok AM, Pelled G, Navon G, Gazit D, Gazit Z. Teriparatide attenuates scarring around murine cranial bone allograft via modulation of angiogenesis [Internet]. Bone 2017;97:192-200. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Nearly all bone fractures in humans can deteriorate into a non-union fracture, often due to formation of fibrotic tissue. Cranial allogeneic bone grafts present a striking example: although seemingly attractive for craniofacial reconstructions, they often fail due to fibrosis at the host-graft junction, which physically prevents the desired bridging of bone between the host and graft and revitalization of the latter. In the present study we show that intermittent treatment with recombinant parathyroid hormone-analogue (teriparatide) modulates neovascularization feeding in the graft surroundings, consequently reducing fibrosis and scar tissue formation and facilitates osteogenesis. Longitudinal inspection of the vascular tree feeding the allograft has revealed that teriparatide induces formation of small-diameter vessels in the 1st week after surgery; by the 2nd week, abundant formation of small-diameter blood vessels was detected in untreated control animals, but far less in teriparatide-treated mice, although in total, more blood capillaries were detected in the animals that were given teriparatide. By that time point we observed expression of the profibrogenic mediator TGF-beta in untreated animals, but negligible expression in the teriparatide-treated mice. To evaluate the formation of scar tissue, we utilized a magnetization transfer contrast MRI protocol to differentiate osteoid tissue from scar tissue, based on the characterization of collagen fibers. Using this method we found that significantly more bone matrix was formed in animals given teriparatide than in control animals. Altogether, our findings show how teriparatide diminishes scarring, ultimately leading to superior bone graft integration.
Pelled G, Sheyn D, Tawackoli W, Jun DS, Koh Y, Su S, Cohn Yakubovich D, Kallai I, Antebi B, Da X, Gazit Z, Bae H, Gazit D. BMP6-Engineered MSCs Induce Vertebral Bone Repair in a Pig Model: A Pilot Study [Internet]. Stem Cells Int 2016;2016:6530624. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Osteoporotic patients, incapacitated due to vertebral compression fractures (VCF), suffer grave financial and clinical burden. Current clinical treatments focus on symptoms' management but do not combat the issue at the source. In this pilot study, allogeneic, porcine mesenchymal stem cells, overexpressing the BMP6 gene (MSC-BMP6), were suspended in fibrin gel and implanted into a vertebral defect to investigate their effect on bone regeneration in a clinically relevant, large animal pig model. To check the effect of the BMP6-modified cells on bone regeneration, a fibrin gel only construct was used for comparison. Bone healing was evaluated in vivo at 6 and 12 weeks and ex vivo at 6 months. In vivo CT showed bone regeneration within 6 weeks of implantation in the MSC-BMP6 group while only minor bone formation was seen in the defect site of the control group. After 6 months, ex vivo analysis demonstrated enhanced bone regeneration in the BMP6-MSC group, as compared to control. This preclinical study presents an innovative, potentially minimally invasive, technique that can be used to induce bone regeneration using allogeneic gene modified MSCs and therefore revolutionize current treatment of challenging conditions, such as osteoporosis-related VCFs.

Antebi B, Zhang L, Sheyn D, Pelled G, Zhang X, Gazit Z, Schwarz EM, Gazit D. Controlling Arteriogenesis and Mast Cells Are Central to Bioengineering Solutions for Critical Bone Defect Repair Using Allografts [Internet]. Bioengineering (Basel) 2016;3(1) Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although most fractures heal, critical defects in bone fail due to aberrant differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells towards fibrosis rather than osteogenesis. While conventional bioengineering solutions to this problem have focused on enhancing angiogenesis, which is required for bone formation, recent studies have shown that fibrotic non-unions are associated with arteriogenesis in the center of the defect and accumulation of mast cells around large blood vessels. Recently, recombinant parathyroid hormone (rPTH; teriparatide; Forteo) therapy have shown to have anti-fibrotic effects on non-unions and critical bone defects due to inhibition of arteriogenesis and mast cell numbers within the healing bone. As this new direction holds great promise towards a solution for significant clinical hurdles in craniofacial reconstruction and limb salvage procedures, this work reviews the current state of the field, and provides insights as to how teriparatide therapy could be used as an adjuvant for healing critical defects in bone. Finally, as teriparatide therapy is contraindicated in the setting of cancer, which constitutes a large subset of these patients, we describe early findings of adjuvant therapies that may present future promise by directly inhibiting arteriogenesis and mast cell accumulation at the defect site.

Sheyn D, Ben-David S, Shapiro G, de Mel S, Bez M, Ornelas L, Sahabian A, Sareen D, Da X, Pelled G, Tawackoli W, Liu Z, Gazit D, Gazit Z. Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Differentiate Into Functional Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Repair Bone Defects [Internet]. Stem Cells Transl Med 2016;5(11):1447-1460. Publisher's VersionAbstract

: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are currently the most established cells for skeletal tissue engineering and regeneration; however, their availability and capability of self-renewal are limited. Recent discoveries of somatic cell reprogramming may be used to overcome these challenges. We hypothesized that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that were differentiated into MSCs could be used for bone regeneration. Short-term exposure of embryoid bodies to transforming growth factor-beta was used to direct iPSCs toward MSC differentiation. During this process, two types of iPSC-derived MSCs (iMSCs) were identified: early (aiMSCs) and late (tiMSCs) outgrowing cells. The transition of iPSCs toward MSCs was documented using MSC marker flow cytometry. Both types of iMSCs differentiated in vitro in response to osteogenic or adipogenic supplements. The results of quantitative assays showed that both cell types retained their multidifferentiation potential, although aiMSCs demonstrated higher osteogenic potential than tiMSCs and bone marrow-derived MSCs (BM-MSCs). Ectopic injections of BMP6-overexpressing tiMSCs produced no or limited bone formation, whereas similar injections of BMP6-overexpressing aiMSCs resulted in substantial bone formation. Upon orthotopic injection into radial defects, all three cell types regenerated bone and contributed to defect repair. In conclusion, MSCs can be derived from iPSCs and exhibit self-renewal without tumorigenic ability. Compared with BM-MSCs, aiMSCs acquire more of a stem cell phenotype, whereas tiMSCs acquire more of a differentiated osteoblast phenotype, which aids bone regeneration but does not allow the cells to induce ectopic bone formation (even when triggered by bone morphogenetic proteins), unless in an orthotopic site of bone fracture. SIGNIFICANCE: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are currently the most established cells for skeletal tissue engineering and regeneration of various skeletal conditions; however, availability of autologous MSCs is very limited. This study demonstrates a new method to differentiate human fibroblast-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to cells with MSC properties, which we comprehensively characterized including differentiation potential and transcriptomic analysis. We showed that these iPS-derived MSCs are able to regenerate nonunion bone defects in mice more efficiently than bone marrow-derived human MSCs when overexpressing BMP6 using a nonviral transfection method.

Shapiro G, Wong AW, Bez M, Yang F, Tam S, Even L, Sheyn D, Ben-David S, Tawackoli W, Pelled G, Ferrara KW, Gazit D. Multiparameter evaluation of in vivo gene delivery using ultrasound-guided, microbubble-enhanced sonoporation [Internet]. J Control Release 2016;223:157-164. Publisher's VersionAbstract

{More than 1800 gene therapy clinical trials worldwide have targeted a wide range of conditions including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and monogenic diseases. Biological (i.e. viral), chemical, and physical approaches have been developed to deliver nucleic acids into cells. Although viral vectors offer the greatest efficiency, they also raise major safety concerns including carcinogenesis and immunogenicity. The goal of microbubble-mediated sonoporation is to enhance the uptake of drugs and nucleic acids. Insonation of microbubbles is thought to facilitate two mechanisms for enhanced uptake: first, deflection of the cell membrane inducing endocytotic uptake, and second, microbubble jetting inducing the formation of pores in the cell membrane. We hypothesized that ultrasound could be used to guide local microbubble-enhanced sonoporation of plasmid DNA. With the aim of optimizing delivery efficiency, we used nonlinear ultrasound and bioluminescence imaging to optimize the acoustic pressure, microbubble concentration, treatment duration, DNA dosage, and number of treatments required for in vivo Luciferase gene expression in a mouse thigh muscle model. We found that mice injected with 50mug luciferase plasmid DNA and 5x10(5) microbubbles followed by ultrasound treatment at 1.4MHz, 200kPa, 100-cycle pulse length, and 540 Hz pulse repetition frequency (PRF) for 2min exhibited superior transgene expression compared to all other treatment groups. The bioluminescent signal measured for these mice on Day 4 post-treatment was 100-fold higher (p<0.0001

Sheyn D, Shapiro G, Tawackoli W, Jun DS, Koh Y, Kang KB, Su S, Da X, Ben-David S, Bez M, Yalon E, Antebi B, Avalos P, Stern T, Zelzer E, Schwarz EM, Gazit Z, Pelled G, Bae HM, Gazit D. PTH Induces Systemically Administered Mesenchymal Stem Cells to Migrate to and Regenerate Spine Injuries [Internet]. Mol Ther 2016;24(2):318-330. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Osteoporosis affects more than 200 million people worldwide leading to more than 2 million fractures in the United States alone. Unfortunately, surgical treatment is limited in patients with low bone mass. Parathyroid hormone (PTH) was shown to induce fracture repair in animals by activating mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). However, it would be less effective in patients with fewer and/or dysfunctional MSCs due to aging and comorbidities. To address this, we evaluated the efficacy of combination i.v. MSC and PTH therapy versus monotherapy and untreated controls, in a rat model of osteoporotic vertebral bone defects. The results demonstrated that combination therapy significantly increased new bone formation versus monotherapies and no treatment by 2 weeks (P < 0.05). Mechanistically, we found that PTH significantly enhanced MSC migration to the lumbar region, where the MSCs differentiated into bone-forming cells. Finally, we used allogeneic porcine MSCs and observed similar findings in a clinically relevant minipig model of vertebral defects. Collectively, these results demonstrate that in addition to its anabolic effects, PTH functions as an adjuvant to i.v. MSC therapy by enhancing migration to heal bone loss. This systemic approach could be attractive for various fragility fractures, especially using allogeneic cells that do not require invasive tissue harvest.

Zhou Z, Bez M, Tawackoli W, Giaconi J, Sheyn D, de Mel S, Maya MM, Pressman BD, Gazit Z, Pelled G, Gazit D, Li D. Quantitative chemical exchange saturation transfer MRI of intervertebral disc in a porcine model [Internet]. Magn Reson Med 2016;76(6):1677-1683. Publisher's VersionAbstract

{PURPOSE: Previous studies have associated low pH in intervertebral discs (IVDs) with discogenic back pain. The purpose of this study was to determine whether quantitative CEST (qCEST) MRI can be used to detect pH changes in IVDs in vivo. METHODS: The exchange rate ksw between glycosaminoglycan (GAG) protons and water protons was determined from qCEST analysis. Its dependence on pH value was investigated in GAG phantoms with varying pH and concentrations. The relationship between ksw and pH was studied further in vivo in a porcine model on a 3T MR scanner and validated using a pH meter. Sodium lactate was injected into the IVDs to induce various pH values within the discs ranging from 5 to 7. RESULTS: Phantom and animal results revealed that ksw measured using qCEST MRI is highly correlated with pH level. In the animal studies, the relationship can be described as ksw =9.2 x 106 x 10-pH + 196.9

Cohn Yakubovich D, Tawackoli W, Sheyn D, Kallai I, Da X, Pelled G, Gazit D, Gazit Z. Computed Tomography and Optical Imaging of Osteogenesis-angiogenesis Coupling to Assess Integration of Cranial Bone Autografts and Allografts [Internet]. J Vis Exp 2015;(106):e53459. Publisher's VersionAbstract

A major parameter determining the success of a bone-grafting procedure is vascularization of the area surrounding the graft. We hypothesized that implantation of a bone autograft would induce greater bone regeneration by abundant blood vessel formation. To investigate the effect of the graft on neovascularization at the defect site, we developed a micro-computed tomography (microCT) approach to characterize newly forming blood vessels, which involves systemic perfusion of the animal with a polymerizing contrast agent. This method enables detailed vascular analysis of an organ in its entirety. Additionally, blood perfusion was assessed using fluorescence imaging (FLI) of a blood-borne fluorescent agent. Bone formation was quantified by FLI using a hydroxyapatite-targeted probe and microCT analysis. Stem cell recruitment was monitored by bioluminescence imaging (BLI) of transgenic mice that express luciferase under the control of the osteocalcin promoter. Here we describe and demonstrate preparation of the allograft, calvarial defect surgery, microCT scanning protocols for the neovascularization study and bone formation analysis (including the in vivo perfusion of contrast agent), and the protocol for data analysis. The 3D high-resolution analysis of vasculature demonstrated significantly greater angiogenesis in animals with implanted autografts, especially with respect to arteriole formation. Accordingly, blood perfusion was significantly higher in the autograft group by the 7(th) day after surgery. We observed superior bone mineralization and measured greater bone formation in animals that received autografts. Autograft implantation induced resident stem cell recruitment to the graft-host bone suture, where the cells differentiated into bone-forming cells between the 7(th) and 10(th) postoperative day. This finding means that enhanced bone formation may be attributed to the augmented vascular feeding that characterizes autograft implantation. The methods depicted may serve as an optimal tool to study bone regeneration in terms of tightly bounded bone formation and neovascularization.

Liu Q, Tawackoli W, Pelled G, Fan Z, Jin N, Natsuaki Y, Bi X, Gart A, Bae H, Gazit D, Li D. Detection of low back pain using pH level-dependent imaging of the intervertebral disc using the ratio of R1rho dispersion and -OH chemical exchange saturation transfer (RROC) [Internet]. Magn Reson Med 2015;73(3):1196-205. Publisher's VersionAbstract

PURPOSE: Low pH is associated with intervertebral disc (IVD)-generated low back pain (LBP). The purpose of this work was to develop an in vivo pH level-dependent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method for detecting discogenic LBP, without using exogenous contrast agents. METHODS: The ratio of R1rho dispersion and chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) (RROC) was used for pH-level dependent imaging of the IVD while eliminating the effect of labile proton concentration. The technique was validated by numerical simulations and studies on phantoms and ex vivo porcine spines. Four male (ages 42.8 +/- 18.3) and two female patients (ages 55.5 +/- 2.1) with LBP and scheduled for discography were examined with the method on a 3.0 Tesla MR scanner. RROC measurements were compared with discography outcomes using paired t-test. RESULTS: Simulation and phantom results indicated RROC is a concentration independent and pH level-dependent technique. Porcine spine study results found higher RROC value was related to lower pH level. Painful discs based on discography had significant higher RROC values than those with negative diagnosis (P < 0.05). CONCLUSION: RROC imaging is a promising pH level dependent MRI technique that has the potential to be a noninvasive imaging tool to detect painful IVDs in vivo.

Navaro Y, Bleich-Kimelman N, Hazanov L, Mironi-Harpaz I, Shachaf Y, Garty S, Smith Y, Pelled G, Gazit D, Seliktar D, Gazit Z. Matrix stiffness determines the fate of nucleus pulposus-derived stem cells [Internet]. Biomaterials 2015;49:68-76. Publisher's VersionAbstract

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.

Shapiro G, Kallai I, Sheyn D, Tawackoli W, Koh YD, Bae H, Trietel T, Goldbart R, Kost J, Gazit Z, others. Ultrasound-mediated transgene expression in endogenous stem cells recruited to bone injury sites [Internet]. Polymers for Advanced Technologies 2014;25(5):525–531. Publisher's Version
Antebi B, Pelled G, Gazit D. Stem cell therapy for osteoporosis [Internet]. Curr Osteoporos Rep 2014;12(1):41-7. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Current osteoporosis treatments are predominantly bone-resorbing drugs that are associated with several side effects. The use of stem cells for tissue regeneration has raised great hope in various fields of medicine, including musculoskeletal disorders. Stem cell therapy for osteoporosis could potentially reduce the susceptibility of fractures and augment lost mineral density by either increasing the numbers or restoring the function of resident stem cells that can proliferate and differentiate into bone-forming cells. Such osteoporosis therapies can be carried out by exogenous introduction of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), typically procured from bone marrow, adipose, and umbilical cord blood tissues or through treatments with drugs or small molecules that recruit endogenous stem cells to osteoporotic sites. The main hurdle with cell-based osteoporosis therapy is the uncertainty of stem cell fate and biodistribution following cell transplantation. Therefore, future advancements will focus on long-term engraftment and differentiation of stem cells at desired bone sites for tangible clinical outcome.