Initial characterization of the metabolism of intervertebral disc cells encapsulated in microspheres

Authors

  • Brian A. Maldonado,

    1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
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  • Dr. Theodore R. Oegema Jr.

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
    2. Department of Biochemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.
    • Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Minnesota, Box 310 UMHC, 420 Delaware St. S.E., Minneapolis MN, 55455, U.S.A.
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Abstract

Adult, canine intervertebral disc cells were isolated with a sequential digestion of pronase and bacterial collagenase. The nonchondrodystrophoid nucleus pulposus exhibits two populations of cells: large notochordal cells and smaller chondrocyte-like cells. The cells from the transition zone and anulus fibrosus are uniform in size, ranging from 17 to 21 μm. The isolated cells were encapsulated in alginate beads and cultured in Ham's F-12 medium containing 5% heat-inactivated fetal bovine serum. Alginate bead formation requires calcium ions and can be reversed with a suitable chelator, thus releasing viable cells. We observed that 58% of the newly synthesized proteoglycans formed large-molecular-weight aggregates with hyaluronic acid. The proteoglycans contained low amounts of keratan sulfate (KS) (<5% of the total glycosaminoglycans synthesized). The chondroitin sulfates (CS) consisted of 51–67% as 6-O-sulfate and 29–39% as 4-O-sulfate, with the remainder (4–10%) present as 4,6-sulfate for all three zones of the disc. The majority of cells synthesized significant amounts of matrix as evidenced by Alcian Blue staining. By immunohistochemical analysis, the matrix contained chondroitin 6-sulfate as demonstrated by monoclonal antibodies to the unsaturated disaccharides remaining on the proteoglycan core after chondroitinase ABC digestion. Keratan sulfate was also present in the majority of the matrices around cells. These results emphasize the similarity of the newly synthesized proteoglycans secreted by cells grown in alginate beads to those synthesized by the neonate disc. These experiments also demonstrate the usefulness of this method as a microculture technique for disc cells.

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