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.
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.
Bone regeneration achieved using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) and nonviral gene therapy holds great promise for patients with fractures seemingly unable to heal. Previously, MSCs overexpressing bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) were shown to differentiate into the osteogenic lineage and induce bone formation. In the present study, we evaluated the potential of osteogenic differentiation in porcine adipose tissue- and bone marrow-derived MSCs (ASCs and BMSCs, respectively) in vitro and in vivo when induced by nucleofection with rhBMP-2 or rhBMP-6. Our assessment of the in vivo efficiency of this procedure was made using quantitative micro-computed tomography (micro-CT). Nucleofection efficiency and cell viability were similar in both cell types; however, the micro-CT analyses demonstrated that in both ASCs and BMSCs, nucleofection with rhBMP-6 generated bone tissue faster and of higher volumes than nucleofection with rhBMP-2. RhBMP-6 induced more efficient osteogenic differentiation in vitro in BMSCs, and in fact, greater osteogenic potential was identified in BMSCs both in vitro and in vivo than in ASCs. On the basis of our findings, we conclude that BMSCs nucleofected with rhBMP-6 are superior at inducing bone formation in vivo than all other groups studied.
BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The intervertebral disc (IVD) possesses a minimal capability for self-repair and regeneration. Changes in the differentiation of resident progenitor cells can represent diminished tissue regeneration and a loss of homeostasis. We previously showed that progenitor cells reside in the nucleus pulposus (NP). The effect of the degenerative process on these cells remains unclear. PURPOSE: We sought to explore the effect of IVD degeneration on the abundance of resident progenitor cells in the NP, their differentiation potential, and their ability to give rise to NP-like cells. We hypothesize that disc degeneration affects those properties. STUDY DESIGN: Nucleus pulposus cells derived from healthy and degenerated discs were methodically compared for proliferation, differentiation potential, and ability to generate NP-like cells. METHODS: Intervertebral disc degeneration was induced in 10 skeletally, mature mini pigs using annular injury approach. Degeneration was induced in three target discs, whereas intact adjacent discs served as controls. The disc degeneration was monitored using magnetic resonance imaging for 6 to 8 weeks. After there was a clear evidence of degeneration, we isolated and compared cells from degenerated discs (D-NP cells [NP-derived cells from porcine degenerated discs]) with cells isolated from healthy discs (H-NP cells) obtained from the same animal. RESULTS: The comparison showed that D-NP cells had a significantly higher colony-forming unit rate and a higher proliferation rate in vitro. Our data also indicate that although both cell types are able to differentiate into mesenchymal lineages, H-NP cells exhibit significantly greater differentiation toward the chondrogenic lineage and NP-like cells than D-NP cells, displaying greater production of glycosaminoglycans and higher gene expression of aggrecan and collagen IIa. CONCLUSIONS: Based on these findings, we conclude that IVD degeneration has a meaningful effect on the cells in the NP. D-NP cells clearly go through the regenerative process; however, this process is not powerful enough to facilitate full regeneration of the disc and reverse the degenerative course. These findings facilitate deeper understanding of the IVD degeneration process and trigger further studies that will contribute to development of novel therapies for IVD degeneration.
Osteogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is highly dependent on oxygen supply. We have shown that perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), a synthetic oxygen carrier, enhances MSC-based bone formation in vivo. Exploring this phenomenon's mechanism, we hypothesize that a transient increase in oxygen levels using PFTBA will affect MSC survival, proliferation, and differentiation, thus increasing bone formation. To test this hypothesis, MSCs overexpressing bone morphogenetic protein 2 were encapsulated in alginate beads that had been supplemented with an emulsion of PFTBA or phosphate-buffered saline. Oxygen measurements showed that supplementation of PFTBA significantly increased the available oxygen level during a 96-h period. PFTBA-containing beads displayed an elevation in cell viability, which was preserved throughout 2 weeks, and a significantly lower ratio of dead cells throughout the experiment. Furthermore, the cells from the control group expressed significantly more hypoxia-related genes such as VEGF, DDIT3, and PKG1. Additionally, PFTBA supplementation led to an increase in the osteogenic differentiation and to a decrease in chondrogenic differentiation of MSCs. In conclusion, PFTBA increases the oxygen availability in the vicinity of the MSCs, which suffer oxygen exhaustion shortly after encapsulation in alginate beads. Consequently, cell survival is increased, and hypoxia-related genes are downregulated. In addition, PFTBA promotes osteogenic differentiation over chondrogeneic differentiation, and thereby can accelerate MSC-based bone regeneration.
Allografts may be useful in craniofacial bone repair, although they often fail to integrate with the host bone. We hypothesized that intermittent administration of parathyroid hormone (PTH) would enhance mesenchymal stem cell recruitment and differentiation, resulting in allograft osseointegration in cranial membranous bones. Calvarial bone defects were created in transgenic mice, in which luciferase is expressed under the control of the osteocalcin promoter. The mice were given implants of allografts with or without daily PTH treatment. Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) was performed to monitor host osteprogenitor differentiation at the implantation site. Bone formation was evaluated with the aid of fluorescence imaging (FLI) and microcomputed tomography (muCT) as well as histological analyses. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was performed to evaluate the expression of key osteogenic and angiogenic genes. Osteoprogenitor differentiation, as detected by BLI, in mice treated with an allograft implant and PTH was over 2-fold higher than those in mice treated with an allograft implant without PTH. FLI also demonstrated that the bone mineralization process in PTH-treated allografts was significantly higher than that in untreated allografts. The muCT scans revealed a significant increase in bone formation in allograft + PTH treated mice comparing to allograft + PBS treated mice. The osteogenic genes osteocalcin (Oc/Bglap) and integrin binding sialoprotein (Ibsp) were upregulated in the allograft + PTH treated animals. In summary, PTH treatment enhances osteoprogenitor differentiation and augments bone formation around structural allografts. The precise mechanism is not clear, but we show that infiltration pattern of mast cells, associated with the formation of fibrotic tissue, in the defect site is significantly affected by the PTH treatment.
Real-time bioluminescence functional imaging holds great promise for regenerative medicine because it improves the researcher's ability to analyze and understand the healing process. Using transgenic mice coupled with gene-modified cells, one can employ this method to monitor host and graft activity in various models of tissue regeneration. We implemented real-time bioluminescence functional imaging to analyze bone formation by following a unique protocol in which the luciferase reporter gene, driven by an osteocalcin promoter, is used to visualize host and graft activity during bone formation. Real-time bioluminescence functional imaging can be used to assess the "host reaction" in transgenic mice models; it can also be used to assess "graft activity" in other animals in which genetically labeled stem cells have been implanted or direct gene delivery has been applied. The suggested imaging protocol requires 25 min per sample. However, special attention must be given to the layout of the experimental design, which determines the specific activity that will be analyzed.
The reduced field-of-view (rFOV) turbo-spin-echo (TSE) technique, which effectively suppresses bowel movement artifacts, is developed for the purpose of chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) imaging of the intervertebral disc (IVD) in vivo. Attempts to quantify IVD CEST signals in a clinical setting require high reliability and accuracy, which is often compromised in the conventionally used technique. The proposed rFOV TSE CEST method demonstrated significantly superior reproducibility when compared with the conventional technique on healthy volunteers, implying it is a more reliable measurement. Phantom study revealed a linear relation between CEST signal and glycosaminoglycan (GAG) concentration. The feasibility of detecting IVD degeneration was demonstrated on a healthy volunteer, indicating that the proposed method is a promising tool to quantify disc degeneration.
BACKGROUND: Brown adipose tissue plays a pivotal role in mammal metabolism and thermogenesis. It has a great therapeutic potential in several metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are suitable candidates for brown adipose tissue formation de novo. Ppargamma2 and C/ebpalpha are nucleic receptors known to mediate adipogenic differentiation. We hypothesized that overexpression of the Ppargamma2 and C/ebpalpha genes in MSCs would lead to the formation of adipose tissue. MATERIALS & METHODS: MSCs bearing the Luc reporter gene were transfected to overexpress Ppargamma2 and C/ebpalpha. Differentiation of nucleofected cells was evaluated in vitro and in vivo following ectopic implantation of the cells in C3H/HeN mice. RESULTS: After implantation, the engineered cells survived for 5 weeks and brown adipose-like tissue was observed in histological samples. Immunostaining and bioluminescent imaging showed new adipocytes expressing Luc and the brown adipose tissue marker, UCP1, in vitro and in vivo. CONCLUSION: We show that gene delivery of transcription factors into MSCs generates brown adipose tissue in vitro and in vivo.
Tendon tissue regeneration is an important goal for orthopedic medicine. We hypothesized that implantation of Smad8/BMP2-engineered MSCs in a full-thickness defect of the Achilles tendon (AT) would induce regeneration of tissue with improved biomechanical properties. A 2 mm defect was created in the distal region of murine ATs. The injured tendons were then sutured together or given implants of genetically engineered MSCs (GE group), non-engineered MSCs (CH3 group), or fibrin gel containing no cells (FG group). Three weeks later the mice were killed, and their healing tendons were excised and processed for histological or biomechanical analysis. A biomechanical analysis showed that tendons that received implants of genetically engineered MSCs had the highest effective stiffness (>70% greater than natural healing, p < 0.001) and elastic modulus. There were no significant differences in either ultimate load or maximum stress among the treatment groups. Histological analysis revealed a tendon-like structure with elongated cells mainly in the GE group. ATs that had been implanted with Smad8/BMP2-engineered stem cells displayed a better material distribution and functional recovery than control groups. While additional study is required to determine long-term effects of GE MSCs on tendon healing, we conclude that genetically engineered MSCs may be a promising therapeutic tool for accelerating short-term functional recovery in the treatment of tendon injuries.
Bone autografts are considered the gold standard for cranioplasty, although they lead to co-morbidity. Bone allografts are more easily obtained but have low osteogenic potential and fail to integrate into healthy bone. Previously, we showed that, by coating long-bone allografts with freeze-dried recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vector encoding for an osteogenic gene, enhanced osteogenesis and bone integration were achieved. In this study our aim was to evaluate the bone repair potential of calvarial autografts and allografts coated with either single-stranded rAAV2 vector (SS-rAAV-BMP2) or self-complementary pseudotyped vector (SC-rAAV-BMP2) encoding for bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)2 in a murine cranioplasty model. The grafts were implanted into critical defects in the calvariae of osteocalcin/luciferase (Oc/Luc) transgenic mice, which allowed longitudinal monitoring of osteogenic activity using bioluminescence imaging (BLI). Our results showed that the bioluminescent signal of the SC-rAAV-BMP2-coated allografts was 40% greater than that of the SS-rAAV-BMP2-coated allografts (p<0.05) and that the bioluminescent signal of the SS-rAAV-BMP2-coated allografts was not significantly different from the signals of the autografts or uncoated allografts. Micro-computed tomography (muCT) confirmed the significant increase in osteogenesis in the SC-rAAV-BMP2 group compared with the SS-rAAV-BMP2 group (p<0.05), indicating a significant difference in bone formation when compared with the other grafts tested. In addition, histological analysis revealed extensive remodelling of the autografts. Collectively, these results demonstrate the feasibility of craniofacial regeneration using SC-rAAV-BMP2-coated allografts, which may be an attractive therapeutic solution for repair of severe craniofacial bone defects.
Bone formation and regeneration therapies continue to require optimization and improvement because many skeletal disorders remain undertreated. Clinical solutions to nonunion fractures and osteoporotic vertebral compression fractures, for example, remain suboptimal and better therapeutic approaches must be created. The widespread use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic proteins (rhBMPs) for spine fusion was recently questioned by a series of reports in a special issue of The Spine Journal, which elucidated the side effects and complications of direct rhBMP treatments. Gene therapy - both direct (in vivo) and cell-mediated (ex vivo) - has long been studied extensively to provide much needed improvements in bone regeneration. In this article, we review recent advances in gene therapy research whose aims are in vivo or ex vivo bone regeneration or formation. We examine appropriate vectors, safety issues, and rates of bone formation. The use of animal models and their relevance for translation of research results to the clinical setting are also discussed in order to provide the reader with a critical view. Finally, we elucidate the main challenges and hurdles faced by gene therapy aimed at bone regeneration as well as expected future trends in this field.
This study investigates the three-dimensional structure of the eight plate exoskeletal (shell) assembly of the chiton Tonicella marmorea. X-ray micro-computed tomography and 3D printing elucidate the mechanism of conformational change from a passive (slightly curved, attached to surface) to a defensive (rolled, detached from surface) state of the plate assembly. The passive and defensive conformations exhibited differences in longitudinal curvature index (0.43 vs. 0.70), average plate-to-plate overlap ( approximately 62% vs. approximately 48%), cross-sectional overlap heterogeneity (60-82.5% vs. 0-90%, fourth plate), and plate-to-plate separation distance (100% increase in normalized separation distance between plates 4 and 5), respectively. The plate-to-plate interconnections consist of two rigid plates joined by a compliant, actuating muscle, analogous to a geometrically structured shear lap joint. This work provides an understanding of how T. marmorea achieves the balance between mobility and protection. In the passive state, the morphometry of the plates and plate-to-plate interconnections results in an approximately continuous curvature and constant armor thickness, resulting in limited mobility but maximum protection. In the defensive state, the underlying soft tissues gain protection and the chiton gains mobility through tidal flow, but regions of vulnerability open dorsally, due to the increase in plate-to-plate separation and decrease in plate-to-plate overlap. Lastly, experiments using optical and scanning electron microscopy, mercury porosimetry, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy explore the microstructure and spatial distribution of the six layers within the intermediate plates, the role of multilayering in resisting predatory attacks, and the detection of chitin as a major component of the intra-plate organic matrix and girdle.
We show that chiral effective field theory (EFT) two-body currents provide important contributions to the quenching of low-momentum-transfer Gamow-Teller transitions, and use chiral EFT to predict the momentum-transfer dependence that is probed in neutrinoless double-beta (0nubetabeta) decay. We then calculate for the first time the 0nubetabeta decay operator based on chiral EFT currents and study the nuclear matrix elements at successive orders. The contributions from chiral two-body currents are significant and should be included in all calculations.
Mechanical loading has been described as a highly important stimulus for improvements in the quality and strength of bone. It has also been shown that mechanical stimuli can induce the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) along the osteogenic lineage. We have previously demonstrated the potent osteogenic effect of MSCs engineered to overexpress the BMP2 gene. In this study we investigated the effect of mechanical loading on BMP2-expressing MSC-like cells, using a special bioreactor designed to apply dynamic forces on cell-seeded hydrogels. Cell viability, alkaline phosphatase (ALP) activity, BMP2 secretion and mineralized substance formation in the hydrogels were quantified. We found that cell metabolism increased as high as 6.8-fold, ALP activity by 12.5-fold, BMP2 secretion by 182-fold and mineralized tissue formation by 1.72-fold in hydrogels containing MSC-like cells expressing BMP2, which were cultured in the presence of mechanical loading. We have shown that ex vivo mechanical loading had an additive effect on BMP2-induced osteogenesis in genetically engineered MSC-like cells. These data could be valuable for bone tissue-engineering strategies of the future.
Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs), the most common fragility fractures, account for approximately 700,000 injuries per year. Since open surgery involves morbidity and implant failure in the osteoporotic patient population, a new minimally invasive biological solution to vertebral bone repair is needed. Previously, we showed that adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) overexpressing a BMP gene are capable of inducing spinal fusion in vivo. We hypothesized that a direct injection of ASCs, designed to transiently overexpress rhBMP6, into a vertebral bone void defect would accelerate bone regeneration. Porcine ASCs were isolated and labeled with lentiviral vectors that encode for the reporter gene luciferase (Luc) under constitutive (ubiquitin) or inductive (osteocalcin) promoters. The ASCs were first labeled with reporter genes and then nucleofected with an rhBMP6-encoding plasmid. Twenty-four hours later, bone void defects were created in the coccygeal vertebrae of nude rats. The ASC-BMP6 cells were suspended in fibrin gel (FG) and injected into the bone void. A control group was injected with FG alone. The regenerative process was monitored in vivo using microCT, and cell survival and differentiation were monitored using tissue specific reporter genes and bioluminescence imaging (BLI). The surgically treated vertebrae were harvested after 12 weeks and subjected to histological and immunohistochemical (against porcine vimentin) analyses. In vivo BLI detected Luc-expressing cells at the implantation site over a 12-week period. Beginning 2 weeks postoperatively, considerable defect repair was observed in the group treated with ASC-BMP6 cells. The rate of bone formation in the stem cell-treated group was two times faster than that in the FG-treated group, and bone volume at the end point was 2-fold compared to the control group. Twelve weeks after cell injection the bone volume within the void reached the volume measured in native vertebrae. Immunostaining against porcine vimentin indicated that the ASC-BMP6 cells contributed to new bone formation. Here we show the potential of injections of BMP-modified ASCs to repair vertebral bone defects in a rat model. Our results could pave the way to a novel approach for the biological treatment of traumatic and osteoporosis-related vertebral bone injuries.
Microcomputed tomography (microCT) analysis is a powerful tool for the evaluation of bone tissue because it provides access to the 3D microarchitecture of the bone. It is invaluable for regenerative medicine as it provides the researcher with the opportunity to explore the skeletal system both in vivo and ex vivo. The quantitative assessment of macrostructural characteristics and microstructural features may improve our ability to estimate the quality of newly formed bone. We have developed a unique procedure for analyzing data from microCT scans to evaluate bone structure and repair. This protocol describes the procedures for microCT analysis of three main types of mouse bone regeneration models (ectopic administration of bone-forming mesenchymal stem cells, and administration of cells after both long bone defects and cranial segmental bone defects) that can be easily adapted for a variety of other models. Precise protocols are crucial because the system is extremely user sensitive and results can be easily biased if standardized methods are not applied. The suggested protocol takes 1.5-3.5 h per sample, depending on bone tissue sample size, the type of equipment used, variables of the scanning protocol and the operator's experience.
SUMMARY: This study investigated the influence of ovarian hormone deficiency on core circadian regulatory protein (CCRP) in the context of bone loss. Our data suggest that ovarian hormone deficiency disrupts diurnal rhythmicity and CCRP expression in bone. Further studies should determine if chronobiology provides a novel therapeutic target for osteoporosis intervention. INTRODUCTION: CCRP synchronize metabolic activities and display an oscillatory expression profile in murine bone. In vitro studies using bone marrow mesenchymal stromal/stem cells have demonstrated that the CCRP is present and can be regulated within osteoblast progenitors. In vivo studies have shown that the CCRP regulates bone mass via leptin/neuroendocrine pathways. The current study used an ovariectomized murine model to test the hypothesis that ovarian hormone deficiency is associated with either an attenuation and/or temporal phase shift of the CCRP oscillatory expression in bone and that these changes are correlated with the onset of osteoporosis. METHODS: Sham-operated controls and ovariectomized female C57BL/6 mice were euthanized at 4-h intervals 2 weeks post-operatively. RESULTS: Ovariectomy attenuated the oscillatory expression of CCRP mRNAs in the femur and vertebra relative to the controls and reduced the wheel-running activity profile. CONCLUSION: Ovarian hormone deficiency modulates the expression profile of the CCRP with potential impact on bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell lineage commitment.