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Keywords:

  • foetal cells;
  • intervertebral disc;
  • cell therapy;
  • alginate beads;
  • extracellular matrix

Abstract

Cell therapy for nucleus pulposus (NP) regeneration is an attractive treatment for early disc degeneration as shown by studies using autologous NP cells or stem cells. Another potential source of cells is foetal cells. We investigated the feasibility of isolating foetal cells from human foetal spine tissues and assessed their chondrogenic potential in alginate bead cultures. Histology and immunohistochemistry of foetal tissues showed that the structure and the matrix composition (aggrecan, type I and II collagen) of foetal intervertebral disc (IVD) were similar to adult IVD. Isolated foetal cells were cultured in monolayer in basic media supplemented with 10% Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) and from each foetal tissue donation, a cell bank of foetal spine cells at passage 2 was established and was composed of around 2000 vials of 5 million cells. Gene expression and immunohistochemistry of foetal spine cells cultured in alginate beads during 28 days showed that cells were able to produce aggrecan and type II collagen and very low level of type I and type X collagen, indicating chondrogenic differentiation. However variability in matrix synthesis was observed between donors. In conclusion, foetal cells could be isolated from human foetal spine tissues and since these cells showed chondrogenic potential, they could be a potential cell source for IVD regeneration.