An inflammatory nucleus pulposus tissue culture model to test molecular regenerative therapies: validation with Epigallocatechin 3-Gallate

O. Krupkova, M. Hlavna, J. Amir Tahmasseb, J. Zvick, D. Kunz, K. Ito, S.J. Ferguson, K. Wuertz-Kozak

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21 Citations (Scopus)
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Organ cultures are practical tools to investigate regenerative strategies for the intervertebral disc. However, most existing organ culture systems induce severe tissue degradation with only limited representation of the in vivo processes. The objective of this study was to develop a space- and cost-efficient tissue culture model, which represents degenerative processes of the nucleus pulposus (NP). Intact bovine NPs were cultured in a previously developed system using Dyneema jackets. Degenerative changes in the NP tissue were induced either by the direct injection of chondroitinase ABC (1-20 U/mL) or by the diffusion of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) (both 100 ng/mL) from the culture media. Extracellular matrix composition (collagens, proteoglycans, water, and DNA) and the expression of inflammatory and catabolic genes were analyzed. The anti-inflammatory and anti-catabolic compound epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG, 10 µM) was employed to assess the relevance of the degenerative NP model. Although a single injection of chondroitinase ABC reduced the proteoglycan content in the NPs, it did not activate cellular responses. On the other hand, IL-1β and TNF-α significantly increased the mRNA expression of inflammatory mediators IL-6, IL-8, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), prostaglandin-endoperoxide synthase 2 (PTGS2) and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP1, MMP3, and MMP13). The cytokine-induced gene expression in the NPs was ameliorated with EGCG. This study provides a proof of concept that inflammatory NP cultures, with appropriate containment, can be useful for the discovery and evaluation of molecular therapeutic strategies against early degenerative disc disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1640
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2016


  • nucleus pulposus
  • organ culture model
  • degenerative disc disease
  • IL-1 beta
  • TNF-alpha
  • chondroitinase ABC
  • epigallocatechin 3-gallate
  • inflammation
  • extracellular matrix


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