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2.  Synovial Fluid Progenitors Expressing CD90+ from Normal but Not Osteoarthritic Joints Undergo Chondrogenic Differentiation without Micro-Mass Culture 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43616.
Mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs) can differentiate into osteoblasts, adipocytes, and chondrocytes, and are in part responsible for maintaining tissue integrity. Recently, a progenitor cell population has been found within the synovial fluid that shares many similarities with bone marrow MPCs. These synovial fluid MPCs (sfMPCs) share the ability to differentiate into bone and fat, with a bias for cartilage differentiation. In this study, sfMPCs were isolated from human and canine synovial fluid collected from normal individuals and those with osteoarthritis (human: clinician-diagnosed, canine: experimental) to compare the differentiation potential of CD90+ vs. CD90− sfMPCs, and to determine if CD90 (Thy-1) is a predictive marker of synovial fluid progenitors with chondrogenic capacity in vitro.
sfMPCs were derived from synovial fluid from normal and OA knee joints. These cells were induced to differentiate into chondrocytes and analyzed using quantitative PCR, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy.
The CD90+ subpopulation of sfMPCs had increased chondrogenic potential compared to the CD90− population. Furthermore, sfMPCs derived from healthy joints did not require a micro-mass step for efficient chondrogenesis. Whereas sfMPCs from OA synovial fluid retain the ability to undergo chondrogenic differentiation, they require micro-mass culture conditions.
Overall, this study has demonstrated an increased chondrogenic potential within the CD90+ fraction of human and canine sfMPCs and that this population of cells derived from healthy normal joints do not require a micro-mass step for efficient chondrogenesis, while sfMPCs obtained from OA knee joints do not differentiate efficiently into chondrocytes without the micro-mass procedure. These results reveal a fundamental shift in the chondrogenic ability of cells isolated from arthritic joint fluids, and we speculate that the mechanism behind this change of cell behavior is exposure to the altered milieu of the OA joint fluid, which will be examined in further studies.
PMCID: PMC3430696  PMID: 22952721
3.  Matrix metalloproteinase protein expression profiles cannot distinguish between normal and early osteoarthritic synovial fluid 
Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are diseases which result in the degeneration of the joint surface articular cartilage. Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) are enzymes that aid in the natural remodelling of tissues throughout the body including cartilage. However, some MMPs have been implicated in the progression of OA and RA as their expression levels and activation states can change dramatically with the onset of disease. Yet, it remains unknown if normal and arthritic joints demonstrate unique MMPs expression profiles, and if so, can the MMP expression profile be used to identify patients with early OA. In this study, the synovial fluid protein expression levels for MMPs 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12 & 13, as well as those for the Tissue Inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs) 1, 2, 3, & 4 were examined in highly characterized normal knee joints, and knee joints with clinically diagnosed OA (early and advanced) or RA. The purpose of this study was to determine if normal, OA, and RA patients exhibit unique expression profiles for a sub-set of MMPs, and if early OA patients have a unique MMP expression profile that could be used as an early diagnostic marker.
Synovial fluid was aspirated from stringently characterized normal knee joints, and in joints diagnosed with either OA (early and advanced) or RA. Multiplexing technology was employed to quantify protein expression levels for 8 MMPs and 4 TIMPs in the synovial fluid of 12 patients with early OA, 17 patients diagnosed with advanced OA, 15 with RA and 25 normal knee joints. Principle component analysis (PCA) was used to reveal which MMPs were most influential in the distinction between treatment groups. K – means clustering was used to verify the visual grouping of subjects via PCA.
Significant differences in the expression levels of MMPs and TIMPs were observed between normal and arthritic synovial fluids (with the exception of MMP 12). PCA demonstrated that MMPs 2, 8 & 9 can be used to effectively separate individuals diagnosed with advanced arthritis from early osteoarthritic and normal individuals, however, these MMP profiles do not separate early OA from normal synovial fluid. An apparent separation between advanced OA and RA subjects was also revealed through PCA. K-means clustering verified the presence of 3 clusters: normal joints clustered with early OA, and separate clusters of advanced OA or RA.
This study demonstrates that unique MMP and TIMP expression profiles are present within normal, advanced OA and RA synovial fluid. These MMP profiles can be used to distinguish advanced OA & RA synovial fluid from early OA & normal synovial fluid, and even between synovial fluid samples from OA and RA joints. Although this methodology cannot be used for the diagnosis of early OA, high throughput multiplex technology of MMPs and TIMPs in synovial fluid may prove useful in determining the severity of the disease state, and/or quantifying the response of individuals to disease interventions.
PMCID: PMC3532375  PMID: 22824140
4.  Impact of stirred suspension bioreactor culture on the differentiation of murine embryonic stem cells into cardiomyocytes 
BMC Cell Biology  2011;12:53.
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) can proliferate endlessly and are able to differentiate into all cell lineages that make up the adult organism. Under particular in vitro culture conditions, ESCs can be expanded and induced to differentiate into cardiomyocytes in stirred suspension bioreactors (SSBs). However, in using these systems we must be cognizant of the mechanical forces acting upon the cells. The effect of mechanical forces and shear stress on ESC pluripotency and differentiation has yet to be clarified. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of the suspension culture environment on ESC pluripotency during cardiomyocyte differentiation.
Murine D3-MHC-neor ESCs formed embyroid bodies (EBs) and differentiated into cardiomyocytes over 25 days in static culture and suspension bioreactors. G418 (Geneticin) was used in both systems from day 10 to enrich for cardiomyocytes by eliminating non-resistant, undifferentiated cells. Treatment of EBs with 1 mM ascorbic acid and 0.5% dimethyl sulfoxide from day 3 markedly increased the number of beating EBs, which displayed spontaneous and cadenced contractile beating on day 11 in the bioreactor. Our results showed that the bioreactor differentiated cells displayed the characteristics of fully functional cardiomyocytes. Remarkably, however, our results demonstrated that the bioreactor differentiated ESCs retained their ability to express pluripotency markers, to form ESC-like colonies, and to generate teratomas upon transplantation, whereas the cells differentiated in adherent culture lost these characteristics.
This study demonstrates that although cardiomyocyte differentiation can be achieved in stirred suspension bioreactors, the addition of medium enhancers is not adequate to force complete differentiation as fluid shear forces appear to maintain a subpopulation of cells in a transient pluripotent state. The development of successful ESC differentiation protocols within suspension bioreactors demands a more complete understanding of the impacts of shear forces on the regulation of pluripotency and differentiation in pluripotent stem cells.
PMCID: PMC3260255  PMID: 22168552
5.  Inhibition of Rho Kinase Regulates Specification of Early Differentiation Events in P19 Embryonal Carcinoma Stem Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26484.
The Rho kinase pathway plays a key role in many early cell/tissue determination events that take place in embryogenesis. Rho and its downstream effector Rho kinase (ROCK) play pivotal roles in cell migration, apoptosis (membrane blebbing), cell proliferation/cell cycle, cell-cell adhesion and gene regulation. We and others have previously demonstrated that inhibition of ROCK blocks endoderm differentiation in embryonal carcinoma stem cells, however, the effect of ROCK inhibition on mesoderm and ectoderm specification has not been fully examined. In this study, the role of ROCK within the specification and differentiation of all three germ layers was examined.
Methodology/Principal Findings
P19 cells were treated with the specific ROCK inhibitor Y-27623, and increase in differentiation efficiency into neuro-ectodermal and mesodermal lineages was observed. However, as expected a dramatic decrease in early endodermal markers was observed when ROCK was inhibited. Interestingly, within these ROCK-inhibited RA treated cultures, increased levels of mesodermal or ectodermal markers were not observed, instead it was found that the pluripotent markers SSEA-1 and Oct-4 remained up-regulated similar to that seen in undifferentiated cultures. Using standard and widely accepted methods for reproducible P19 differentiation into all three germ layers, an enhancement of mesoderm and ectoderm differentiation with a concurrent loss of endoderm lineage specification was observed with Y-27632 treatment. Evidence would suggest that this effect is in part mediated through TGF-β and SMAD signaling as ROCK-inhibited cells displayed aberrant SMAD activation and did not return to a ‘ground’ state after the inhibition had been removed.
Given this data and the fact that only a partial rescue of normal differentiation capacity occurred when ROCK inhibition was alleviated, the effect of ROCK inhibition on the differentiation capacity of pluripotent cell populations should be further examined to elucidate the role of the Rho-ROCK pathway in early cellular ‘fate’ decision making processes.
PMCID: PMC3227584  PMID: 22140430
6.  Reduced Differentiation Efficiency of Murine Embryonic Stem Cells in Stirred Suspension Bioreactors 
Stem Cells and Development  2009;19(7):989-998.
The use of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) for regenerative medicine has generated increased attention due to the favorable attributes of these cells; namely, they are pluripotent and possess long-term self-renewal capacity. The initial aims of the present study were: (i) to use stirred suspension bioreactors to expand and differentiate ESCs into osteogenic and chondrogenic cell types and (ii) to explore if these ESC-derived cells influenced skeletal healing in an in vivo fracture model. We show that differentiation protocols used in static culture are insufficient when applied directly to suspension culture bioreactors. Moreover, when bioreactor-differentiated cells are transplanted into a burr-hole defect in bone, severe disruption of the bone architecture was noted at the fracture site, as determined by microcomputed tomography (microCT) imaging and histopathology. Further characterization of the bioreactor-differentiated cultures revealed that a subpopulation of cells in the resulting aggregates expressed the pluripotency marker Oct-4 in the nucleus. Nuclear Oct-4 expression persisted even after 30 days of culture in the absence of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF). Remarkably, and unlike ESCs differentiated into skeletal cell types in static cultures, bioreactor-differentiated aggregates implanted subcutaneously into SCID mice formed teratomas. The development of effective ESC differentiation protocols for suspension bioreactors will require a more complete understanding of the environmental conditions within these culture systems and the influence that these conditions have on the regulation of pluripotency and differentiation in ESCs.
PMCID: PMC3128313  PMID: 19775198

Results 1-6 (6)