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1.  Gene-Modified Adult Stem Cells Regenerate Vertebral Bone Defect in a Rat Model 
Molecular pharmaceutics  2011;8(5):1592-1601.
Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs), the most common fragility fractures, account for approximately 700,000 injuries per year. Since open surgery involves morbidity and implant failure in the osteoporotic patient population, new minimally invasive biological solution to vertebral bone repair is needed. Previously, we showed that adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) overexpressing a BMP gene are capable of inducing spinal fusion in vivo. We hypothesized that a direct injection of ASCs, designed to transiently overexpress rhBMP6, into a vertebral bone void defect would accelerate bone regeneration. Porcine ASCs were isolated and labeled with lentiviral vectors that encode for the reporter gene luciferase (Luc) under constitutive (ubiquitin) or inductive (osteocalcin) promoters. The ASCs were first labeled with reporter genes and then nucleofected with an rhBMP6-encoding plasmid. Twenty-four hours later, bone void defects were created in the coccygeal vertebrae of nude rats. The ASC-BMP6 cells were suspended in fibrin gel (FG) and injected into the bone void. A control group was injected with FG alone. The regenerative process was monitored in vivo using microCT, and cell survival and differentiation were monitored using tissue specific reporter genes and bioluminescence imaging (BLI). The surgically treated vertebrae were harvested after 12 weeks and subjected to histological and immunohistochemical (against porcine vimentin) analyses. In vivo BLI detected Luc-expressing cells at the implantation site over a 12-week period. Beginning 2 weeks postoperatively, considerable defect repair was observed in the group treated with ASC-BMP6 cells. The rate of bone formation in the stem cell–treated group was two times faster than that in the FG–treated group, and bone volume at the endpoint was twofold compared to the control group. Twelve weeks after cell injection the bone volume within the void reached the volume measured in native vertebrae. Immunostaining against porcine vimentin indicated that the ASC-BMP6 cells contributed to new bone formation. Here we show the potential of injections of BMP-modified ASCs to repair vertebral bone defects in a rat model. Our results could pave the way to a novel approach for the biological treatment of traumatic and osteoporosis-related vertebral bone injuries.
doi:10.1021/mp200226c
PMCID: PMC3220930  PMID: 21834548
vertebral fracture; bone regeneration; gene-and-cell therapy; stem cell tracking
2.  Genetically Modified Mesenchymal Stem Cells Induce Mechanically Stable Posterior Spine Fusion 
Tissue Engineering. Part A  2010;16(12):3679-3686.
Most spine fusion procedures involve the use of prosthetic fixation devices combined with autologous bone grafts rather than biological treatment. We had shown that spine fusion could be achieved by injection of bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2)-expressing mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) into the paraspinal muscle. In this study, we hypothesized that posterior spinal fusion achieved using genetically modified MSCs would be mechanically comparable to that realized using a mechanical fixation. BMP-2-expressing MSCs were injected bilaterally into paravertebral muscles of the mouse lumbar spine. In one control group BMP-2 expression was inhibited. Microcomputed tomography and histological analyses were used to evaluate bone formation. For comparison, a group of mouse spines were bilaterally fused with stainless steel pins. The harvested spines were later tested using a custom four-point bending apparatus and structural bending stiffness was estimated. To assess the degree to which MSC vertebral fusion was targeted and to quantify the effects of fusion on adjacent spinal segments, images of the loaded spine curvature were analyzed to extract rigidity of the individual spinal segments. Bone bridging of the targeted vertebrae was observed in the BMP-2-expressing MSC group, whereas no bone formation was noted in any control group. The biomechanical tests showed that MSC-mediated spinal fusion was as effective as stainless steel pin-based fusion and significantly more rigid than the control groups. Local analysis showed that the distribution of stiffness in the MSC-based fusion group was similar to that in the steel pin fusion group, with the majority of spinal stiffness contributed by the targeted fusion at L3–L5. Our findings demonstrate that MSC-induced spinal fusion can convey biomechanical rigidity to a targeted segment that is comparable to that achieved using an instrumental fixation.
doi:10.1089/ten.tea.2009.0786
PMCID: PMC2991214  PMID: 20618082

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