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Determination of the potential of induced pluripotent stem cells to differentiate into mouse nucleus pulposus cells in vitro

Author(s): K. Liu, Z. Chen, X.W. Luo, G.Q. Song, P. Wang, X.D. Li, M. Zhao,X.W. Han, Y.G. Bai, Z.L. Yang and G. Feng

We determined the potential for induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to differentiate into nucleus pulposus (NP)-like cells in mice. iPS cells were generated from tail-tip fibroblasts. We used a pellet culture model with the aim of determining the applicability of iPS cell-based therapy to intervertebral disc degeneration (IVD). The cell pellet was cultured in an NP cell basal medium comprising Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium supplemented with transforming growth factor beta 1, dexamethasone, ascorbate-2-phosphate, and 1% ITS-Premix. The pellet was evaluated by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemical staining, and biochemical composition. The differentiation of iPS cells into NP cells was demonstrated by the protein and mRNA expression levels of proteoglycan, collagen II, aggrecan, and CD24. Furthermore, increased hydroxyproline content and dimethylmethylene blue staining demonstrated that the collagen II and glycosaminoglycan content in the NP cells increased with time. We have shown that cultured mouse iPS cells can be induced to differentiate into NP cells. Such proof-of-concept opens up the possibility of producing patient-specific NP cells in a relatively simple and straightforward manner with high efficiency. We are confident that such cells could be immediately useful for the study of IVD disease.