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Title: Self-assembling peptide hydrogel for intervertebral disc tissue engineering
Author: Wan, Simon
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 4739
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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The intervertebral disc (IVD), situated between adjoining vertebrae, consists of the gelatinous nucleus pulposus (NP) in the centre surrounded by the tougher annulus fibrosus (AF). Its main roles are to distribute loads and to act as joints. With aging, degenerative disc disease (DDD) occurs due to an imbalance in anabolic and catabolic events in the IVD, which results in a loss of function. Lower back pain (LBP) affects 84% of people at some point in their lifetime and is strongly associated with DDD. Current LBP treatments have limited long term efficacy and are symptomatic rather than curative. Cell-based therapies are regarded to hold great potential for the treatment of DDD as it has been hypothesised that they could regenerate the damaged tissue and alleviate LBP. A number of natural and synthetic biomaterials have been investigated as NP tissue engineering scaffolds with varying results. In this study, a self assembling peptide hydrogel (SAPH) was investigated for its potential as a cell carrier and/or scaffold for NP tissue engineering. SAPHs display the advantages of natural polymer hydrogels such as biocompatibility and biodegradability whilst combining the advantages of synthetic materials such as controlled structural and mechanical propertiesCharacterisation determined that the SAPH nanofibrous architecture had features that were of similar scale to extracellular matrix (ECM) components of the human NP. The mechanical properties of the SAPH could be optimised to closely match the native tissue. The system could shear thin and self-heal making the system ideally suited to delivery via minimally invasive procedure. The three dimensional (3D) culture of bovine NP cells (bNPCs) in the SAPH demonstrated that the NP phenotype could be restored after de-differentiation during monolayer culture. Gene expression results demonstrated that ‘traditional’ and ‘novel’ NP markers were highly expressed throughout in vitro culture. Cell viability was high, cell population remained stable and bNPCs adopted the characteristic rounded morphology of native NPCs. Finally, type II collagen and aggrecan, the main ECM components of the NP, were deposited with increasing production over culture period. Growth differentiation factor 6 (GDF-6) has been identified as the most promising current growth factor for inducing discogenic differentiation from human bone marrow mesenchymal stem cell (h-BMMSCs). After samples were stimulated with GDF-6, gene expression results confirmed that a NP-like phenotype could be induced with high expression of ‘traditional’ and ‘novel’ NP markers. Cell viability was high, cell population remained stable and NP associated ECM components were deposited with cells displaying a rounded morphology. Interestingly, when h-BMMSCs were cultured without GDF-6, it was strongly suggested that spontaneous discogenic differentiation occurred after culture in the SAPHs as ‘traditional’ and ‘novel’ NP markers were highly expressed, morphology was comparable to native NPCs and type II collagen and aggrecan were deposited extracellularly. If these findings were accurate then this is the first study to demonstrate that a NP-like phenotype could be induced from MSCs without use of an exogenous growth factor or a discogenic bioactive motif. Despite exciting and novel results, further work is required to confirm the potential of SAPHs for NP tissue engineering scaffolds.
Supervisor: Gough, Julie ; Saiani, Alberto ; Richardson, Stephen Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Self-assembling peptide gel ; Degenerative disc disease ; Mesenchymal stem cell ; Nucleus pulposus ; Intervertebral disc ; Growth differentiation factor ; Cell-based therapy ; Lower back pain