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Cells Have Potential to Treat Degenerative Disc Disease

Proteins secreted by notochord cells affect gene expression in chondrocytes

FRIDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified proteins secreted by cells from the canine notochord, the embryonic precursor of the backbone, that can increase gene expression in chondrocytes from bovine discs, suggesting that notochord cells may have potential in treating degenerative disc disease, according to study findings published in the December issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Robert D. Inman, M.D., from the University of Toronto in Canada, and colleagues identified factors secreted by canine notochord cells from adult non-chondrodystrophic dogs by gel electrophoresis and mass spectroscopy. Medium from these cells was then added to bovine disc-derived chondrocytes to investigate changes in protein expression.

The researchers found that the notochord cells secreted aggrecan, fibronectin, Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase and connective tissue growth factor precursor. The notochord cell-conditioned medium caused an increase in aggrecan, versican, and hyaluronic acid synthase 2 in chondrocytes, where the level of aggrecan induction was similar to that produced by recombinant connective tissue growth factor.

"But is there a notochord within an adult spine?" Juergen A. Mollenhauer, Ph.D., from Naturwissenschaftliches und Medizinisches Institut an der Universitaet Tuebingen in Reutlingen, Germany, asks in an accompanying editorial. "Tissue engineering of the intervertebral disc or curative approaches against disc degeneration and herniation require a solid knowledge base."

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