Regeneration of intervertebral disc by mesenchymal stem cells: potentials, limitations, and future direction


Over the past few years, substantial progress has been made in the field of stem cell regeneration of the intervertebral disc. Autogenic mesenchymal stem cells in animal models can arrest intervertebral disc degeneration or even partially regenerate it and the effect is suggested to be dependent on the severity of degeneration. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are able to escape alloantigen recognition which is an advantage for allogenic transplantation. A number of injectable scaffolds have been described and various methods to pre-modulate MSCs’ activity have been tested. In future, work will need to address the use of mesenchymal stem cells in large animal models and the fate of the implanted mesenchymal stem cells, particularly in the long term, in animals. This review examines the state-of-the-art in the field of stem cell regeneration of the intervertebral disc, and critically discusses, with scientific support, the issues involved, before stem cells could be used in human subjects.

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The work described in this paper was partially supported by a grant from the University Grants Committee of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China (HKU7496/05M).

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Correspondence to Kenneth M. C. Cheung.

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Leung, V.Y.L., Chan, D. & Cheung, K.M.C. Regeneration of intervertebral disc by mesenchymal stem cells: potentials, limitations, and future direction. Eur Spine J 15, 406–413 (2006).

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  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Intervertebral disc degeneration
  • Intervertebral disc regeneration
  • Tissue engineering