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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 427138, 10 pages
Research Article

Organotypic Cultures of Intervertebral Disc Cells: Responses to Growth Factors and Signaling Pathways Involved

Laboratory of Cell Proliferation & Ageing, Institute of Biosciences & Applications, National Centre for Scientific Research “Demokritos”, 153 10 Athens, Greece

Received 30 June 2015; Accepted 23 August 2015

Academic Editor: Eugenia Karousou

Copyright © 2015 Harris Pratsinis and Dimitris Kletsas. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration is strongly associated with low back pain, a major cause of disability worldwide. An in-depth understanding of IVD cell physiology is required for the design of novel regenerative therapies. Accordingly, aim of this work was the study of IVD cell responses to mitogenic growth factors in a three-dimensional (3D) organotypic milieu, comprising characteristic molecules of IVD’s extracellular matrix. In particular, annulus fibrosus (AF) cells were cultured inside collagen type-I gels, while nucleus pulposus (NP) cells in chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) supplemented collagen gels, and the effects of Platelet-Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (bFGF), and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I (IGF-I) were assessed. All three growth factors stimulated DNA synthesis in both AF and NP 3D cell cultures, with potencies similar to those observed previously in monolayers. CSA supplementation inhibited basal DNA synthesis rates, without affecting the response to growth factors. ERK and Akt were found to be phosphorylated following growth factor stimulation. Blockade of these two signaling pathways using pharmacologic inhibitors significantly, though not completely, inhibited growth factor-induced DNA synthesis. The proposed culture systems may prove useful for further in vitro studies aiming at future interventions for IVD regeneration.